2013 GAIRSOPPA BRITANNIA

Back last September we ran the story of the release of a quarter-ounce silver Britannia from the Royal Mint that had been struck from silver brought up from the wreck of the freighter SS Gairsoppa. It was only available from Merit Gold in the US,  but now the Royal Mint are offering them directly in custom packaging.

A very interesting take on the Britannia, made from silver recovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration where over 100 tons of silver bars were recovered from the wreck with the full permission of the British Government. The edge detail is cool as well, having the name of the ship struck into it. Mintage in this form is strictly limited to 20,000 pieces.

The coin carries the usual Ian Rank Broadley portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and the now standard bullion reverse of Brittania by Philip Nathan.

2013 GAIRSOPPA BRITANNIA 1/4oz

Each coin is presented in a specially designed pack that brings Gairsoppa’s last journey, the bravery of Richard Ayres and the wonder of the salvage mission to life. The pack  includes a DVD of the three-episode TV series following the recovery, Silver Rush. At £30 for a quarter-ounce silver bullion coin, how much importance you place in the DVD is key to what you think of the overall value. In our view it’s a little steep, but you may feel differently.

Be aware that the DVD is marked as being Region 2 and will likely be in PAL. We’ll try to get confirmation that the disc isn’t locked to Region 2 players but it’s unlikely in our opinion.

SPECIFICATION

Denomination Metal Weight, g Diameter, mm Quality Box – COA Mintage, pcs
50 PENCE 0.999 Silver 7.83 22.00 BU SLEEVE – N  20,000

2013-GAIRSOPPA-PACKDVD

SS Gairsoppa coins from 70 year-old sunken bullion now available from the Royal Mint

In a move likely to capture the imagination of anyone partial to tales of sunken treasure, SS Gairsoppa Britannia Quarter-Ounce Silver Coins are now available direct from The Royal Mint.

By pre-ordering from The Royal Mint website, customers can secure their own piece of history from this moving wartime story, along with a DVD featuring Silver Rush, the three-episode TV series aired by the Discovery Channel documenting the recovery of the sunken hoard. Shipping of the coins is likely to start from 21 April.

Created from a shipment of silver bullion that has spent more than 70 years under the sea, the coins have previously only been offered in the United States via an exclusive arrangement with precious metals dealer A-Mark Precious Metals, Inc. and their distributor Merit Gold and Silver.

The story began in December 1940, when The Royal Mint, already depleted of its stocks of silver due to the onset of war in 1939, called in additional supplies from India. A large shipment was despatched aboard a British steam merchant ship, the SS Gairsoppa, which was also carrying shipments of pig iron and tea. She sailed under the protection of a series of naval convoys heading for Britain.

Battling a heavy storm, and running short of coal off the coast of Southern Ireland, SS Gairsoppa’s crew had no option other than to break free from the protection of their convoy and head for the safety of  Galway Harbour. Now an easy target, the unfortunate vessel was spotted and torpedoed by a German U-boat at 8 minutes past midnight on 17 February 1941. The stricken ship sunk within 20 minutes, with second officer R. H. Ayres the only survivor in spite of heroic attempts to save his fellow crew members.

Concerned correspondence between The Royal Mint and the Bank of England at the time reveals the impact the loss had on the country’s wartime reserves, even threatening the temporary suspension of production of the 1,000 year-old Mint within two months if supplies ran out.

The ship was finally located in September 2011, 300 miles off the Irish coast at a depth of three miles, half a mile deeper than the Titanic, making this the largest and deepest recovery of precious metal from a shipwreck in history.

Now, after 70 years, retrieval company Odyssey Marine Exploration has recovered silver from the SS Gairsoppa, some of which has now been passed to The Royal Mint for the striking of the 99.9 pure 1/4oz silver Britannia bullion coins, which are edged with the name SS Gairsoppa.