The British Royal Mint first began producing Silver Britannia coins in 1997. Ten year prior, in 1987, the Royal Mint began producing the Gold Britannia coins. The Gold Britannia bullion coins were such a success that they decided to launch a silver version. Now nearly 20 years into the annual series, Silver Britannia coins are sought out by many for their unique designs, fine silver content, and affordability.
Who is Britannia?
“Britannia” is a term used to depict Roman Britain, the area of Great Britain that was once ruled by Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. The term has been used for millennia, and is also the Latin name for Great Britain.
When England and Scotland unified in 1707, the term “Britannia” was used as a female representation of the unification, symbolizing strength, and providing nationalism and inspiration to generations. She has been used on a number of different coins for hundreds of years, beginning in 1672 on the farthing, and continuing to be featured on coins like the halfpenny from the 17th century until 1936. She was featured on all modern British coins until 2008, when the Royal Mint introduced a new design on most coins, causing a controversy and campaigns to “Save Britannia.” However, she is still featured on Silver Britannia coins today, giving this coin another appeal to an audience of British nationalists and historians.
Many statues and other works of art exist that depict and glorify Britannia. Britannia remains a modern symbol and important figure in Great Britain. In the 1990s, the term “Cool Britannia” surfaced, and was used to describe Great Britain as a fashion forward and desirable location.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Silver Britannia coins is the coin’s design, or more appropriately, designs. Unlike many other coin series that are minted each year, the designs on the Silver Britannia coins change year after year.
On the first version in 1997, the obverse (front) side of the coin features “Third Portrait” design of Queen Elizabeth II, which was also found on British decimal bullion coins from 1985 through 1997. In 1998, the coin’s obverse side changed to the “Fourth Portrait” design, which is a more mature version of Queen Elizabeth II. All British coins made the same change that year on obverse designs.
The reverse (back) side of the coin is where we really begin to see variety in the Silver Britannia coin designs. In the first version in 1997, Britannia is featured on the reverse side. In 1998, she is again featured, though in this version it is an image of a standing Britannia figure. The image is powerful and depicts Britannia looking over her right shoulder while clutching a shield in her left hand and a trident in her right hand. Her hair is blowing powerfully in the wind as she gazes out from shore, a symbol of the long and proud history of British sea exploration. This image has been used on all subsequent even numbered years on the reverse side: 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and so on.
Beginning in 1999, and lasting throughout each subsequent odd numbered year since, the reverse side has featured a unique image of Britannia, replacing the more common standing image. In some years, she is sitting. However, no odd numbered year is the same, making these Silver Britannia coins much more appealing to both collectors and investors.
Beginning in 2013, the proof versions are designed differently than the bullion versions. The bullion versions will feature the standing Britannia, while the proof versions will continue the alternating variations, similar to those found on the 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011 versions of the coin.
Another unique design aspect can be found on the 2014 version of the Silver Britannia. On that version, a minting mistake caused roughly 17,000 coins to be produced with the wrong obverse. This version has been nicknamed the “Mule Britannia” as it commemorates the Year of the Horse, a design which was meant for another coin of the same fineness and specification. Time will tell if these mistakenly minted coins will become more valuable as a result.
Silver Britannia 2016 Specifications
Silver Britannia coins have improved their silver fineness score, and have become slightly smaller in size, in recent years. From 1997 until 2012, the coins had a fineness of .958, or 95.8% silver. Their total mass was 32.45 grams, with a diameter of 40 millimeters. Beginning in 2013, their fineness improved to .999 (99.9% silver). Their total mass was reduced to 31.21 grams, and their diameter was reduced to 38.61 millimeters. They are 3 millimeters thick and weigh 1 ounce.
In 2013 and 2014, larger 5 ounce versions of the Silver Britannia coins were minted, though only a few thousand were produced each year.
The face value of Silver Britannia coins is 2 pounds, which is roughly 3 U.S. dollars. However, due to their silver content of 1 ounce, they are valued higher than that. Their actual value depends on a number of factors, including condition of the coin and the current market price of silver. For example, if silver is valued at $18 per ounce, and your coin is in the same mint uncirculated condition that we send to you, then your coin is worth about $18 because it contains 1 ounce of very fine silver. (Prices will vary with the price od silver)
Other factors contribute to the overall value as well. For example, the mistakenly minted Mule Britannia coins of 2014 may become more valuable over time given their rarity. Other buyers may find more historical or personal value for Silver Britannia coins from certain years, such as the year they were born or the year they were married, or from a year that was significant to British history.
The number of Silver Britannia coins minted throughout the years declined at first, though has increased more recently. In 1998, about 89,000 were produced. However, in 1999, less than 70,000 were produced, and in 2000, over 81,000 were produced. That number reduced again in 2001, when about 45,000 were produced. Roughly 49,000 were produced in 2002, and about 73,000 in 2003. Beginning in 2004, the number increased to about 100,000, and stayed at that level until 2010, when 126,000 were minted. The number came back to about 100,000 in 2011 and 2012, and jumped up to about 300,000 in 2013. Roughly 1,000,000 were minted in 2014.