The Royal Mint has finally opened the doors to the public, albeit in a very controlled manner, after over a millenium in operation. The building of a new £7.7m visitors centre at the mints Llantrisant facility in South Wales, where they’ve been based since 1968, has finally opened up this quite secretive and secure operation to coin collectors and families everywhere. Housed in an excellent new building, the modern centre offers a fine look at the history of the mint, and the processes involved in producing the quite staggering numbers of coins this hugely successful mint makes every year, currently standing at around 90 million coins a week, for dozens of countries around the world.
Officially opening today, we were fortunate enough to be invited to the press opening on Tuesday where we were allowed to take photographs and wander through this just finished exhibition. They’ve obviously put plenty of thought into what they wanted to do, and expertly put it into practice, as it offers plenty for the kids to do like striking their own £1 coin through to many interactive displays. It manages to simultaneously cater to the coin enthusiast who can finally get a glimpse behind the scenes of this hugely professional organisation and see much of the history of this very old endeavour. Second only to the Monnaie de Paris in outright age – even then only by a few decades over the 1100 years they’ve been around, these mints are pretty much the oldest and longest running organisations of any sort in the world, the age almost boggles the mind.
There are some great items on display that collectors will recognise, especially original plaster sculpts of the Queens effigies and Philip Nathans iconic bullion Britannia artwork. Centuries old items, the Waterloo medal book and Trial of Pyx samples, give you a fine sense of the history of the Royal Mint. The medal display has everything from the George Cross to campaign medals, some simply beautiful examples of the craft, there are 2012 Olympic medals, as well as many coins both old and new. We would personally like to see the historical coin display expanded – we’re sure the British Museum could spare a few hundred from the vast collection they have stuck in backrooms of that building, but much is covered regardless.
As a day out it looks a painless experience. Parking is on the doorstep in their own carpark, there’s a place to get snacks and drinks, a good shop to buy many Royal Mint coins, and a nice flow to the exhibition that means it should be easy to see everything in a few hours. The staff are knowledgable and hugely enthusiastic, all-in-all well worth a visit and we can’t see them struggling to get the 150-200,000 visitors a year they expect to. Our thanks to the people at the mint for the opportunity to wander around.