The Royal British Mint issued the first Silver Britannia coins in proof format in 1997. This was followed by the issuance of 1 oz. silver bullion coins in 1998 and each subsequent year. While these coins have typically carried a lower profile than other world silver bullion coins, this status may be changing.
For each year of issue, the obverse design of the coin has featured the Ian Rank Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. The reverse has carried an image of Britannia, which at first alternated between standing Britannia designed by Philip Nathan and a new version created for odd numbered years. This pattern changed after 2006. Eventually, the standing Britannia design was brought back for the 25th anniversary of the Britannia series in 2012.
The 1 oz. silver bullion coins carry a legal tender face value of £2. The composition is “Britannia Silver” or 95.8% purity. Each coin has a weight of 32.454 grams (including 1 troy ounce of pure silver) and a diameter of 40 mm.
A summary of the design and mintage for each year of release for the silver bullion coins is included below.
1998-2012 Britannia Silver Bullion Coins
|2001||Una and the Lion||44,816|
|2007||Seated Britannia and Lion||100,000*|
|2008||Britannia on Beach||100,000*|
|2011||Billowing Union Flag||100,000*|
In recent years, the bullion coins have been limited to an annual issuance of 100,000 coins, which is extremely low compared to the multiple millions of silver bullion coins issued each year by some other countries. The Silver Britannia coins have also typically been priced at a higher premium.
The limited mintage, pricing, and alternating designs seemed to target the coins at a different segment of the market than bulk bullion purchasers. Based on announcements made earlier this year, the Royal Mint is seeking to change this status and expand into their presence in the world bullion market.
Starting with the 2013-dated coins to be issued in November 2012, the composition will be changed to 99.9% purity, which is used for most other world silver bullion coins. The style of packaging will be changed to more of a bulk format. Finally, the coins will no longer be subject to the 100,000 limited mintage, but will be minted to order.
If the expansion is successful and the Silver Britannia coins gain a greater penetration within the market, this seems like it would have a favorable impact on earlier bullion issues. From a collector standpoint, the series has some points of interest such as the diversity of designs and what may prove to be extremely lower mintages for the issues of 1998 to 2012 compared to the subsequent issues. This may be a bullion series to watch in the coming years.