UPDATED: Rule Britannia, Britannia Rule the picosecond laser engraved Waves. Royal Mint goes high-tech for bullion perennial

Like many collectors, we were disappointed a few years ago when the Royal Mint decided to move away from it’s programme of irregular changing designs for its Britannia bullion coin. They moved the focus on to their premium proof range of Britannia coins, launching such wonderful designs as the 2014 entrant. The bullion coin settled on Philip Nathan’s iconic depiction of Britannia, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some tweaks in the ensuing time period.

We’ve had various guilloche and geometric background field patterns, tweaks to the placement of inscriptions and the obvious change in obverse effigy from Ian Rank Broadley to Jody Clark, but the alterations to the 2021 coin, while still keeping Nathan’s Britannia, are quite a bit more extensive – focusing on the scourge of counterfeit coins. Security is the new buzzword in bullion, and the Royal Mint has decided to go high-tech.

A picosecond laser emits optical pulses of extremely short duration, and are used for many things from tattoo removal to laser etching. The Royal Mint has used them to enhance an intricate wave-pattern background that appears to move when the coin is rotated in hand. There’s a laser-etched microtext inscription repeated in a band running inside the main border to further complicate the forgers job. In addition to that, a latent, lenticular-style privy area (similar to that used on KOMSCO bullion issues) also changes image on coin rotation, this time from a padlock to a trident head. There are also numerous enhancements to fine detail as well, such as the shield decoration.

The end result is an enhanced classic that can be authenticated just by rotating the coin in your hand with natural light. It’s an inspired and practical solution and we can see a counterfeit one of these being instantly noticeable. Due to go on sale from 19 October, the usual range of gold (1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/10 oz) and silver (1oz) will be on offer. The press release states that the silver is of 0.9999 fineness, but the only official image we received (below) appears to indicate it’s 0.999, so we’ll have to confirm what is correct. Our instinct says the latter. Confirmed at 0.999. Whatever the case, these will fly out. Gold Britannia’s sold 236% more coins from Apri-Sept 2020 than they did in the same period in 2019. Busy times indeed.

UPDATED: New image of the silver coin reverse face, thanks to the Royal Mint.


Britannia has been The Royal Mint’s flagship bullion coin since it was first introduced in 1987. The new edition, which goes on sale from 19 October, introduces layers of new security features which combine to make it the most visually secure coin in the world. The features include:

• Latent image: First introduced on the £2 coin, the latent image acts like a hologram and changes from a padlock to a trident when the coin is seen from different angles.

• Surface Animation: Micro details on the coin combine to create the illusion of waves rolling behind the figure of Britannia. These are created using advanced picosecond lasers, and come to life as the coin is rotated.

• Micro-text: The addition of the inscription “DECUS ET TUTAMEN” which translates to “an ornament and a safeguard” surrounds the figure of Britannia, and is created using specialist lasers.

• Tincture lines: To reinforce security, The Royal Mint has reintroduced the traditional art of Tincture lines – depicting colours and patterns on metal.

The Royal Mint was one of the first mints in the world to use advanced picosecond lasers – used in medicine and aerospace – for the production of coins. This technology enables The Royal Mint to work on a submicron level, creating complex designs using indents which are 200 times narrower than the width of a human hair.

Together these tiny indents can create spectacular special effects – such as the movement of waves seen in the background of the Britannia coin. The advanced technology and intricacy of the design makes it incredibly difficult to replicate, and gives the owner confidence that they have a genuine gold product simply by rotating it in the light.

Andrew Dickey, Divisional Director of Precious Metals for The Royal Mint, said: “Our Britannia bullion range is already one of the most sought after in the world, and these innovative new security features make it even more appealing for investors. Simply by moving the coin you can authenticate it as a genuine Royal Mint product, giving investors complete confidence, whether they are buying directly from us or from our partners.”

“Our precious metals division has experienced its busiest year on record, and we know that investors value the trust and authenticity that comes with a Royal Mint product. We have seen demand for gold increase significantly since March 2020, which has included a large proportion of customers investing in gold for the first time as they diversify their portfolios.”

Gordon Summers, Chief Engraver at The Royal Mint, said: “Britannia is one of our most iconic and enduring designs, so it was vital we retained the beauty of the coin whilst adding sophisticated new anti-counterfeit measures. By focusing on the natural reflection of the metal, and using advanced new technology, we have created a unique and highly safe coin which gives customers complete confidence.”