Like many other mints, the Royal Mint issues bullion coins in precious metals, having much higher intrinsic value than their face value. The one-twentieth ounce (1/20 oz) gold coins are denominated as One Pound (£1) and have been issued since 2013.
These coins are legal tender but are not intended for circulation. They are targeted at bullion investors or 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.
Starting in 2013, the Royal Mint made significant changes to the Britannia program. The purity of the coins was changed from the traditional 22-carat gold (91.67%) and “Britannia silver” (95.8%) to the finer purity of 99.99% gold and 99.9% silver. The typical mintage limit of 100,000 for the silver bullion coins was removed. Lastly, the bullion versions would now feature the static design of Philip Nathan’s “Standing Britannia” while the numismatic versions would feature a new design for each year of issue.
The design for this year’s numismatic versions was created by portrait sculptor Robert Hunt and features Britannia seated and dressed in classical robes, creating a familiar appearance. However, her head appears turned, symbolizing an interest in lands beyond her borders. She wears a Corinthian helmet and holds Neptune’s trident to represent her claim as “ruler of the waves.” An owl is present as a symbol of wisdom - hence the coin is known as Britannia and the Owl. The image appears solitary against an empty field with the exception of the word “BRITANNIA” at the upper left. The precious metal content and date appear at the base.
This twentieth-ounce gold proof coin was issued individually and in sets. This was the first year when the denomination and size was used.