Although it is sometimes overshadowed by its U.S. counterpart, the American Silver Eagle, the Silver Britannia remains the leading silver bullion coin for the U.K.
Backed by the full faith and credit of the British government, these .999 fine silver coins are back with the 2018 1 oz Silver Britannia!
Each of these Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) coins contains 1 troy ounce of fine silver by weight and is designated as legal tender with a face value of 2 Pounds.
The Silver Britannia has also undergone some subtle but important changes over the past few years. These improvements and enhancements have made the coin far more difficult to counterfeit and have even added a stronger aesthetic appeal to the classic Britannia design.
The Story of Britannia: Historical Metaphor for Britain
Britannia is the allegorical representation of the British nation as a woman.
This type of metaphor is a relatively common form of symbolism seen elsewhere around the world. Britannia is analogous to Columbia (or more commonly known as Lady Liberty) in the United States, Marianne in France, and Helvetia in Switzerland -- among many other similar traditions.
The word "Britannia" itself is a reference to the Latin name the Ancient Romans used for the island that is known today as Great Britain. It was also what the Romans called the province established there during the 1st century C.E.
Britannia the symbolic figure captures several aspects of British identity, heritage, and history. Such associations first became commonplace under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the late 16th century.
Her first appearance on an official coin (besides in antiquity) came in 1672 with the English farthing and halfpenny. Similarly, in 1694 the newly chartered Bank of England chose Britannia for the central bank's official seal.
In this way, she is a patriotic concept: She stands for a set of shared characteristics that ties all the people in the country together under a common identity.
Britannia is portrayed, quite appropriately, with a hoplite shield bearing the Union Jack (the flag of the United Kingdom); a trident (three-pronged spear) or sometimes an anchor; and a Corinthian helmet.
Each of these elements is an historical allusion that emphasizes the supremacy of the British navy. This is also why she is often shown on a boat or standing on the shoreline, gazing out toward the sea. Naval power was one of the key factors in the British Empire's eventual success over its competitors and adversaries.
Today, Britannia still embodies the idea of the British nation and the people of Great Britain.
The Royal Mint: A Legacy of Precious Metal Coins
There is perhaps no more storied mint, whether private or state-operated, in the world than the Royal Mint in the U.K. Incredibly, its history traces back more than 1,000 years.
Initially, there were dozens of minting facilities spread out across Britain. Eventually, coin production was centralized in London. The mint operated within the Tower of London from the year 886 C.E. until 1805.
Although England and Scotland experienced a rather tumultuous series of wars and revolutions during the early modern period, the mint remained a fixture throughout it all. The esteemed physicist Isaac Newton even served as the warden of the Royal Mint in 1696 and later became the Master of the Mint for three decades.
Over the course of its centuries of continuous operation, the mint has struck some of the most well-known gold and silver coins in the world.
For instance, the famous English gold sovereign was first minted in 1489. The first gold crown coin was issued in 1526 under King Henry VIII and its counterpart, the silver crown, made its debut in 1551.
The original sovereign was succeeded in 1817 by one of the most famous British gold coins ever minted in the United Kingdom, the British gold sovereign.
The Royal Mint carries this same legacy into its contemporary bullion coins, the Silver Britannia and Gold Britannia.
Interestingly, the Crown and Sovereign are still actively minted today, although they no longer circulate with the intention of being spent in everyday commercial transactions.
The History of Silver Coin Standards In Great Britain
Traditionally, the various governments and empires around the world would issue their silver coins with a 90% purity.
Of course, there were exceptions. At different times, "German silver" (to cite just one example) was 80% or 83.5% pure, and several countries have issued coins that are 75% or 80% pure.
Sterling silver was another exception to the .900 fine "coin silver" paradigm, but on the other end of the spectrum. Sterling is actually more pure, registering at .925 fine (92.5% pure).
As will be discussed further below, Parliament also experimented with implementing a new standard of .958 fine "Britannia silver." However, this higher level of silver purity was not intended for coins and actually became optional only about 25 years after being enacted.
The sterling silver standard for British coins has proven far more durable over history.
It was used by traders in Germany and other parts of mainland Europe probably as early as the 12th century. Although there are examples of the standard's use in England during this time as well, it didn't become legally recognized until the year 1275.
However, it's interesting to note that silver's natural aseptic properties made it the ideal material for medical tools dating all the way back to Ancient Sumeria. These instruments were generally made from sterling silver or an alloy very close to it.
Silver Britannia Reverse Design
The reverse design shows Lady Britannia, the classic personification of the British nation.
Britannia stands proudly facing the sea. Her tunic is swept in the sea breeze. She holds an olive branch and a shield bearing the Union Jack (the flag of Great Britain) in one arm as a trident is grasped in her other hand.
A special pattern of wavy radial lines filling the background doubles as an anti-counterfeiting measure.
Preventing counterfeiting is the main -- and most important -- purpose of this device, but it also adds a dimension of greater eye appeal to the design.
Around the outer rim, the inscriptions read "BRITANNIA," the year-date "2018," as well as the specifications "1oz 999 FINE SILVER."
Denticles line the outer rim while small apostrophes separate each inscription from those surrounding it. The name "NATHAN" is inscribed beneath the rocky shore where Britannia stands, recognizing the design's artist, Philip Nathan.
Silver Britannia Obverse Design
On the obverse, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is depicted facing right wearing her royal crown. The artist's initials "JC" for Jody Clark appear just beneath the truncation. This is the newest portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to appear on coinage, debuting on the queen's 90th birthday in 2015.
In the background, a similar pattern of small dots radiating in every direction is used for the dual purpose of discouraging counterfeiters and creating an aesthetic that is unique to the Silver Britannia.
The Latin abbreviations for the Queen's regnal titles, "By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith," are indicated by "D. G. REG. F. D." inscribed along the bottom rim. The rest of the rim is filled with inscriptions for the denomination "2 POUNDS" and Her Majesty's name "ELIZABETH II."
The same denticle pattern around the rim encloses the design. The edge design is reeded (also known as serrated).
Britannia Silver and the History of the Series
The United Kingdom's Royal Mint was not among the first countries to issue silver bullion coins. It was preceded by the successful efforts of government mints in China, Canada, and the United States by a decade or more.
The British mint finally got into the act in 1997 with the inception of the Silver Britannia. It was preceded by the Gold Britannia coin in 1987.
Unlike most of its modern counterparts, which use .999 fine silver, and most of its predecessors, which used .900 fine silver, the Silver Britannia had its own distinctive purity.
Between its debut in 1997 and 2012, the Silver Britannia coin used silver that was 95.8% pure (.958 fine), a standard which is commonly referred to as "Britannia silver."
If you think of it from the perspective of measuring gold purity in karats, this .958 fineness is the same as saying 23 out of every 24 parts of the alloy is pure silver. In other words, 23-karat gold is also .958 fine.
You might wonder: Where did this somewhat obscure purity come from?
It can actually be traced back to a law passed by Parliament in 1697. The higher fineness standard was originally applied to wrought plates of silver. It was intended to make it harder for people to clip silver coins, which were .925 fine sterling silver, and use the material to make wrought plates.
Items made from Britannia silver would typically be hallmarked by silversmiths with a small image of Lady Britannia or the number "958" on its surface.
From 2013 onward, the Royal Mint decided to raise the purity of its Britannia coins to the more common .999 fine silver.
The series has expanded into different sizes, such as five-ounce and 1/20th-ounce coins. Britannia coins generally have a much lower annual mintage that other world bullion coins, as well.
There have even been various "special edition" versions of the Britannia that have features such as privy marks and limited mintages over the years. Silver Britannia proof coins have used original new reverse designs in the odd-numbered years since 1999 and every single year since 2013.
Buying Silver Bullion Coins
It's worth addressing the question as to why an investor would choose a bullion coin rather than a bar that might carry a lower premium.
Coins carry legal tender status while other forms of bullion do not. This distinction has several implications: It means that coins will likely have more numismatic appeal with coin collectors. It also ensures that the silver in a bullion coin is backed by the full faith and credit of the government that issued it.
Bullion coins also bear unique designs that usually relate to a country's national pride and history. This, in turn, is also a commonly cited reason that collectors favor coins over privately minted bullion products.
Another advantage to silver coins like the Britannia are the higher standards of quality they are held to by the state mint that strikes the coins. Although there are many high-quality silver bars available on the market, bullion coins must meet very rigorous specifications that an item without legal tender status isn't necessarily expected to satisfy.
Nonetheless, if nothing about a modern silver bullion coin appeals to you, and you would prefer to buy silver in large bulk quantities for the lowest possible price, then by all means you should choose a generic silver bar or silver round instead.
Buy 2018 1 oz Silver Britannia Coins Today!
The introduction of the Silver Britannia coin in 1997 resurfaced memories of an earlier era in British coinage.
Throughout the colonial period and the Industrial Revolution, the gold and silver coins of the British Empire were the most trusted in the world.
This same expectation now extends to more modern coins from the U.K., as the country is widely considered the financial center of the Western world.
Moreover, the fabled figure of Britannia is a powerful reminder of the spirit of Great Britain and the rich history this island in the North Atlantic boasts.
Not only do bullion traders all over the world trust and recognize the Silver Britannia, but it's also IRA-approved, meaning these coins are eligible for inclusion in your individual retirement account (IRA).
Don't miss out on your chance to buy 2018 1 oz Silver Britannia coins for a low premium over spot at Gainesville Coins!