Like many other mints, the Royal Mint issues bullion coins in precious metals, having much higher intrinsic value than their face value. The one-fortieth ounce (1/40 oz) gold coins are denominated as Fifty Pence (50p) and have been issued since 2014.
These tiny coins are legal tender but are not intended for circulation. They are targeted at collectors who appreciate the special editions as pieces of art. The coins are typically "one-year" types usually issued in parallel with other denominations with the same reverse designs.
Britannia as a symbol has been depicted on British coinage for centuries. The bullion series called Britannia has been issued in gold since 1987 and in silver since 1997; it has a "definitive" depiction - used on bullion coins (Brilliant Uncirculated grade), as well as one-year designs like this one - used on proofs made for collectors.
In 2014, the reverse was designed by Jody Clark, the author of the Queen's fifth definitive portrait (released the next year). Following on from Robert Hunt’s 2013 Grecian Britannia, this year’s elegant yet powerful interpretation features an art deco Britannia, standing proudly in front of a three-dimensional globe, accompanied by a lion, its tail draped protectively around her feet.
Jody explains: “In approaching my design I started by researching what had gone before. Britannia has appeared in so many different compositions and with such a variety of symbols, I wanted my design to recall her history and tradition but with the elements surrounding Britannia, rather than weighing her down.
In my research I found that Britannia often sat on the globe in an imperial fashion. I did not think that was a very modern concept. Instead, I decided to place it alongside her. I wanted to make the design appear as if Britannia is moving with the globe, and portray a sense of movement, with flowing elements like her dress.
Although some of the elements are motionless - the globe as a backdrop, the shield and trident placed at her side - I feel there is a dynamism to the design. There is a sense of movement as Britannia’s hair and robes flow, as does the mane of the lion, an iconic symbol of strength and pride that I was keen to include, and I hope that the two appear united as I intended them. Although the lion is at Britannia’s feet, its tail is curled around her, protective and tamed.”
This fortieth-ounce gold proof coin was issued individually and in sets.