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    British Silver Britannias

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    2024 1 Kilo British Silver Britannia Coin (BU)
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    Silver Britannia Coins at JM Bullion

    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.

    History of the British Silver Britannia

    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.

    Design of the British Silver Britannia

    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.

    As of 2023, a new era of British Silver Britannia coining starts with the first portrait of King Charles III. His Majesty features on the obverse of the coins as of early 2023 and he is shown in left-profile relief without a crown on his head. This design comes from Martin Jennings.

    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.

    Special Issues of the British Silver Britannia Coin

    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:

    • 2013-present Lunar Series Privy Mark Britannias: In 2013, the Royal Mint introduced its first-ever coin with a privy mark on the rim. These Silver Britannias are available with the traditional obverse and reverse designs, with each featuring a Lunar Series creature represented by a privy mark on the coin’s edge. Available issues with JM Bullion include the 2013 Year of the Snake, 2014 Year of the Horse, and 2017 Year of the Rooster.
    • 2013 S.S. Gairsoppa Silver Britannia: This unique ¼ oz Silver Britannia comes from a small batch of coins struck by the Royal Mint using 1,000 oz of silver ingots recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Gairsoppa. To commemorate the shipwreck, the Royal Mint engraved “S.S. Gairsoppa” on the edge of the coins.
    • 20th Anniversary Britannia: 2017 was the 20th anniversary of the British Silver Britannia, and the Royal Mint slipped a small nod to this date on the coin’s reverse. Within the outer rim engravings, the Royal Mint included a small trident head with a “2” and “0” on either side of the middle spike of the trident.
    • Oriental Border Silver Britannia: These 2018 coins have an Oriental Border-theme around the edge of the reverse side. The border’s use is a nod to the former British Trade Dollar issued following Great Britain’s Opium Wars in China in the 19th This coinage had a limited mintage of 100,000 coins.
    • Colorized Silver Britannia: Each year, the British Britannia is available with a Brilliant Uncirculated coin that includes colorized lacquer on the reverse imagery of Britannia and her surrounding environment.
    • Gilded Silver Britannia: Also available on an annual basis are British Britannias with a gilded finish. This gilded finish is applied only to the image of Britannia on the reverse and includes a thin 24-karat gold layer that creates visual contrast between the design of Britannia and the background field.

    New Security Features in 2021

    The British Britannia bullion coins, both gold and silver, got a major overhaul in terms of security with the release of the 2021 coins. In total, the Royal Mint of England introduced four new security features to the coins, all of which are featured on the reverse field and build upon the use of the guilloche background element on the obverse side of the coin. These four new security features include:

    • On the rim between the Britannia design and the outer field of the coin, there is a micro-text inscription with the words “Decus Et Tutamen.”
    • Tincture lines are now visible on the Union Jack flag on the shield that Britannia holds. These tincture lines create visual distinction on those stripes.
    • To the lower-left field of Britannia, you will now find a latent security feature with alternating images present.
    • The entire background field behind Britannia now has a surface animation feature that, like the latent security feature, changes as you adjust your angle of viewing.

    While holding the new 2021 British Silver Britannia in your hand, changing the angle of viewing creates a visual effect in the surface animation similar to the rolling waves of the ocean. Similarly, the latent security feature alternates between the image of a padlock and a trident.

    Buy British Silver Britannia Coins from JM Bullion

    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.