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A VISIT TO THE ROYAL MINT
Dick Johnson writes "Here is an interesting article about the author's visit to the British Royal Mint." It's a lengthy piece from The Daily Mail detailing the reporter's visit to the Royal Mint in Wales. It touches on a topic recently discussed here, counterfeit one-pound coins. Here are a few excerpts. -EditorMoney doesn't grow on trees. It grows here in the Coining Press Room of the Royal Mint - 24,000 tons of it every year.
And with hard cash back in fashion as savings go back under the mattress, business is booming at arguably the world's oldest financial institution. This is a place where none of the 738 staff is allowed to bring a single piece of money into work and normal vocabulary does not apply. They don't say 'heads' or 'tails' round here. They talk about 'obverses' and 'reverses'.
Entering the storage area, I imagine that this is what life must have looked like at the court of King Midas. There are bags of money, sacks of money, wooden boxes of money and great cardboard crates of money. There is a warehouse full of money piled as high as a five-storey house.
With the economic downturn, however, comes an upturn in crime. Last week, it was announced that forgeries now account for an alarming 2 per cent of the 1.5 billion #1 coins in circulation.
Down here in South Wales, this lot can spot a dud at a glance and are working on ways to flush the bad stuff out of the system.
Every coin, though, starts its life in the Engraving Department, where I expect to meet a collection of half-blind old men in white coats designing unicorns.
Instead, I find a small team of art graduates led by the Chief Engraver, Matt Bonaccorsi, who is only 35 and wears jeans and an earring. His team work on around 500 designs a year. Today, one of them is busy engraving Edward II for a new silver coin for the collectors' market.
Another is preparing an engraving of Lord Trenchard, father of the Royal Air Force, which will be stamped on a special #5 RAF commemorative coin for St Helena (even though it has no airport or planes).
Before I leave, I ask for a crash course in spotting fake pound coins. Paul Morgan, product development manager, produces a good one and a bad one and asks me to tell the difference.
I haven't a clue until Paul advises me to study the colour. The fake is darker and almost stained. Then he points out that the design and the year do not match (different years should have specific designs; for example, the Forth Bridge is only on the 2004 coin).
Different years also have different inscriptions on the side. The 'm' on 'Decus et Tutamen' ('an ornament and a safeguard' - Virgil) looks as if it has been scratched on by a child. In fact, there are many clues for the knowing eye.
To read the complete article, see: Absolutely minted! Robert Hardman escapes the credit crunch to explore the Royal Mint (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1068045/
Wayne Homren, Editor
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