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 “Britannia, the Changing Face of Britain” - a series of one-year designs like this one - used on proofs made for collectors.
This year’s design is both respectful of the past as well as a contemporary interpretation. Britannia stands facing into the wind, a trident planted into the rocks as the waves crashes around her. On her arm she holds a shield featuring the head of a lion.
James Tottle is the designer of the 2020 Britannia collection and is best known for his dramatic ice sculptures; magnificent figures carved from large frozen blocks. In 2018, James went on to win a live ice sculpting competition with a red dragon’s head at Tatry Ice Master.
Born and brought up in South Wales, James Tottle said of his design, “I felt that a strong pose with a striking silhouette of Britannia in the foreground alongside the Union flag in the background would produce a well-balanced image; I also wanted to feature the lion so I worked it onto the shield. The image needed some movement and drama so I used crashing wave and a billowing dress to achieve this.”
This fortieth-ounce gold proof coin was issued in sets only, not individually.