One of the most important coin issues from the Royal Mint of England each year is the Britannia collection. Introduced as a gold bullion coin in 1987, today the Britannia Series features a silver coin and a platinum coin. The British Silver Britannia is the official silver bullion coin of Great Britain and bears upon its reverse side one of the nation’s most iconic and revered designs. First used on British coinage in the late 17th century, today Britannia is known around the world as a symbol of Great Britain and the Royal Mint.
As a silver bullion coin, the British Silver Britannia has been issued by the Royal Mint in every year since its 1997 debut. The coins underwent a change in size, mass, and silver purity after 15 years of availability. The Silver Britannia coins issued from 1997 until 2012 had a silver purity known at the Royal Mint as Britannia silver. This alloy of silver and copper (typically) was first introduced to replace the sterling silver standard during the great recoinage scheme of King William III in 1696. Britannia silver contains 11 ½ troy oz of silver in the pound troy and is equivalent to .958 pure silver content.
These initial Silver Britannia coins from the Royal Mint had a total mass of 32.45 Grams in the 1 Troy oz silver coin and a diameter of 40 mm. In 2013, the Royal Mint increased the silver purity in the Britannia coins to .999 pure silver and shrunk both the mass and size of the coins slightly. All British Silver Britannias issued from 2013 onward have a total mass of 31.21 Grams and a diameter of 38.61 mm.
Aside from these alterations in the size, shape, and silver purity of the coins, the only other alterations have been the use of different effigies of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. The reverse side uses the Philip Nathan depiction of Britannia in every release.
A total of three different effigies of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II have appeared on the obverse of the British Silver Britannia coins. The 1997 Silver Britannias are unique in the series as the only ones to feature the Queen’s third-generation portrait. Designed in 1985 by Raphael Maklouf, this third-generation portrait captures the Queen in right-profile relief wearing the royal diadem crown, earrings, and a necklace. None of these images featured on previous or subsequent designs.
The 1998 to 2015 Silver Britannia coins feature the popular fourth-generation design from Ian Rank-Broadley. His design is also a right-profile portrait but is considered strongly realistic in contrast to Maklouf’s idealistic design of Her Majesty. His depiction features the Queen wearing the Golden Wedding Crown and depicts the Queen at 70 years old.
In 2016, the fifth-generation portrait of Her Majesty was issued on Silver Britannia and other coinage from the Royal Mint. This design from Jody Clark combines the realism and grace of Her Majesty from the Broadley design with the use of the royal diadem crown from the Maklouf design. The Queen is featured at the age of 89 in this design.
For the reverse side of the British Silver Britannia coins, the Royal Mint continues with the use of the Philip Nathan depiction of the nation’s proud symbol. Nathan created the image of Britannia for a Royal Mint competition in the 1980s, and his winning design was chosen to represent the series. It debuted on the Gold Britannia in 1987 and continues in use on all three metallic versions of the coin to this day.
Nathan sought to capture the pride and history of Great Britain in his design of Britannia. Considered a female personification of Great Britain, he wanted his design to connect Britannia to the sea and to the nation’s history of seafaring, including its proud naval accomplishments over the past 500 years. As such, Nathan’s figure of Britannia is a strong female form standing at the sea’s edge on the southern coast of the British Isles with her feet in the water.
Britannia wears a Corinthian helmet on her head as her wind-swept hair flows from beneath it and her gown blows in the wind. Her right hand keeps a firm grip on a trident, the three-pronged tool of Poseidon used to the control the seas. In her left hand, she clutches an olive branch and a shield that bears the Union Jack. Her figure, much like some depictions of Liberty and the bald eagle in America, is symbolic in the design of a desire for peace combined with a preparedness for defense.
The Royal Mint has featured various background field designs behind Britannia over the course of the 20-plus-year history of the silver coins. Coins released through the issue of the 2016 British Silver Britannia had a stippled, or hammered, look to the background field, while the 2017 British Silver Britannia brought the introduction of a sunburst design from behind her figure. The background field on the obverse of the coin has likewise undergone some changes with time. The original Silver Britannias had the same stippled background behind the Queen’s effigy, while the release of the 2018 British Silver Britannia brought with it a new guilloche background design. This imagery mimics the look of braided ribbon and is designed to better secure the coins against counterfeiting.
The Royal Mint uses the Silver Britannia coin as a format for one-time, limited-issue coins that feature distinct design additions or privy marks. The most common of this type are the colorized Silver Britannia coins and the Lunar Series privy mark coins. Below is a breakdown of these unique issues of the Silver Britannia:
If you want to buy silver from the British Silver Britannia collection, don’t hesitate to contact JM Bullion. Our customer service team is available to assist you at 800-276-6508, online using our live chat, and via our email address.