Croeso I Cymru Welcome to Wales
This week Bill and I went on a coach trip to the royal mint at Llantrisant which is near Cardiff in Wales. I have been a coin collector for a number of years and was keen to learn a little more about how they were made. The visitor experience centre was opened in 2016 and cost nine million pounds so we were hoping for an interesting visit.
History of the Mint
Coins have been minted in England for over a thousand years. The earliest coin found with a London mark has the head of King Alfred. From about 1100 A.D. coins were minted inside the tower of London and until 1970 coins were still minted in London at a site close to the tower. However the government decided to introduce decimalisation. In 1971, pounds, shillings and pence were replaced by 100 new pence to the pound and a larger site was needed to produce the new currency.
The site chosen was in South Wales. It may not have been a coincidence that James Callaghan the chancellor of the exchequer was M.P. for the nearby city of Cardiff. The new mint at LLantrisant was opened 50 years ago in 1968 and over 200 million coins were struck in preparation for D day. At the time I was at university at Bangor in North Wales and I remember the excitement of getting the new coins. Predictably people were less impressed when they found that prices tended to go up.
Visiting the mint
The royal mint is on a 35 acre site and is the largest in Western Europe. It has an interesting visitor centre which is open every day from 9.30 A.M. to 17.30 P.M. Tickets cost a rather hefty £13.50 for adults and £11.00 for children and a family ticket for two adults and two children costs £40.00. Concessions and group rates are also available. There is free parking and a small café. It is four miles from junction 34 of the M4. For more details click here: The Royal mint visitor experience
Part of the energy used is generated by a wind turbine painted to resemble a daffodil, the Welsh national flower and named Delilah in honour of Sir Tom Jones who was born nearby.
After a security check we saw a short film which introduced the new range of coins for this year. New coins depict Paddington bear and James Cook as well as a series of 10p pieces with letters of the alphabet. There will also be a commemorative coin with “New Pence” like the original decimal coins.
In the next room our guide showed us a display of tools used to mint the coins. She also pointed out some of the details we should look out for when examining our change. For example the two pound coins have an appropriate slogan round the edge. The London underground £2.00 has “Mind the gap”.
Next we glimpsed a little bit of the production process. I was a bit disappointed to learn that no British coins will be struck this week. Demand has dropped considerably with the increased use of debit and credit cards. However the mint produces currency for about 60 other countries and we were able to watch Egyptian pounds being minted. Our party were suprised to learn that coins are packed in cardboard boxes ready for transport. For obvious reasons we were not allowed to take photographs of the production area. You will also never see a lorry with Royal Mint on the side.
After the factory tour we had time to explore the exhibition area. The mint also produces medals. All the medals for the 2012 London Olympics were made at the mint and copies were on display. There was also a cabinet devoted to the most famous master of the mint Sir Isaac Newton.
The mint has a small shop where you can purchase collector coins and other souvenirs including the largest chocolate money I have ever seen.
Our visit took about two hours including coffee and rather tasty Welsh cakes in the café.
A famous car
In 1967 the Beatles released the single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields forever. Two minis were covered with old pennies to promote the record and this one has been carefully stored and preserved for 50 years.