By Jesse Robitaille
On April 29, Britain’s Royal Mint unveiled the largest coin produced in its 1,100-year history.
Also the largest U.K. coin ever created, the 10-kilogram proof gold coin is a unique issue, with only one example struck using a “combination of traditional minting techniques and innovative technology,” according to mint officials. The single-coin issue took more than 400 hours to create and is the mint’s latest “Masterwork,” a series of larger, one-of-a-kind collector pieces.
“We are delighted to unveil a Royal Mint first with the creation of the U.K.’s largest coin to celebrate the conclusion of our Queen’s Beasts commemorative coin collection,” said Clare Maclennan, the mint’s divisional director of commemorative coins.
The coin, which has a £10,000 face value, has since been sold for an undisclosed six-figure sum, according to the mint.
The Queen’s Beasts collection takes its inspiration from the 10 stone statues lining Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation route to Westminster Abbey.
Starting with the Lion of England in 2017, the series has showcased each of these royal guardian’s history and symbolism.
The 352.74-ounce coin marks the collection’s conclusion by capturing all 10 beasts side by side in a single design. The beasts include lions, a griffin, a falcon, a bull, a yale (a mythical hippo-sized beast with boar tusks), a greyhound, a dragon, a unicorn and a horse, all of which surround the queen’s effigy on the latest ‘Masterwork’ issue.
The series has “grown in popularity” since its 2017 launch, Maclennan said, “and has become a firm favourite amongst coin collectors across the globe.”
“This coin sets a new standard for minting, combining centuries-old techniques with innovative technology to create a unique and beautiful work of art,” she added. “It is the largest coin ever created by the Royal Mint and is testament to the expertise, craftsmanship and skill of our team.”
According to a recent statement issued by the mint, the coin’s production process first used “modern techniques,” with engraving machines carefully cutting the design onto the 10-kilogram coin.
A uniquely titled “master toolmaker” then hand-worked the coin, “carefully papering and burnishing the surface of the metal to remove any marks made by the cutting process to elevate the finish of the design,” added the mint statement. The coin then undergoes four days of polishing.
Finally, the 200-millimetre-diameter piece is laser-frosted to selectively texture the coin’s surface, giving it a matt finish and showcasing the design’s details. This final step completed what was a 400-hour production process from start to finish, according to the mint.
While the mint struck just one 10-kilogram proof gold coin, collectors can complete their Queen’s Beasts collections with this design available in several finishes, sizes and prices, starting at £13 (about $22.35 Cdn.).
WORLD’S LARGEST COINS
While the Royal Mint’s 10-kilogram issue is impressive, it’s far from the world’s largest coin.
Since 2011, Australia’s Perth Mint has held the honour of striking the world’s largest coin, a one-tonne gold issue – that’s 1,000 kilograms – featuring a kangaroo. Measuring about 80 centimetres in diameter and more than 12 centimetres thick, it is the world’s largest, heaviest and most intrinsically valuable gold bullion coin with an estimated value exceeding $50 million AU (about $48 million Cdn.).
Before this, from 2007-11, the Royal Canadian Mint held that honour with its so-called “Big Maple Leaf,” a 100-kilogram, 99.999 per cent pure gold bullion issue with a $1 million face value. To date, five of these 3,215-troy-ounce coins have been produced and purchased by investors from Canada and abroad.
By 2017, the market value of each Big Maple rose $4 million.
Also that year, one of the five coins – on loan at Germany’s Bode Museum since 2010 – was stolen. Last year, Berlin courts sentenced three men, all under the age of 25 and with connections to organized crime, for the theft. A fourth man was acquitted. The stolen coin was never recovered and is believed to have been melted down and sold after the theft.
Before Canada and Australia, the Austrian Mint held the honour of striking the world’s largest coin. In 2004, it struck 15 of these massive coins, each in 99.99 per cent gold, weighing 31 kilograms and with a 100,000-euro face value.