UK's Commemorative Brexit Coin on Hold amid Political Crisis


The Royal Mint, Britain's official coin-maker, has joined the legions of people and businesses left in limbo over Brexit as the country asks the EU to delay its departure from the bloc.

The 1,100-year-old government-owned company had planned to issue a new 50-pence coin to mark Britain's European Union exit on March 29 -- with the date inscribed on it -- and had started producing test pieces.

The Treasury announced in October the commemorative piece "will be available to buy from Spring 2019."

But amid the chaos engulfing the withdrawal process, it said that no coins have been produced yet for sale.

"The commemorative 50-pence coin... will be made available following our departure," a Treasury spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

Asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show over the weekend whether he would have to melt coins with the wrong date, Finance Minister Philip Hammond said they could instead become "collectors' pieces."

Some numismatists believe the wrongly-dated coin would be more sought-after.

"With the UK delaying (its) departure from the EU, any of these coins has just gained substantially in value," said Michael Alexander of the London Banknote and Monetary Research Center.

However, he does not expect them to be officially issued.

"There are plenty of people -- collector and non-collector alike -- who are trying to make friends with Royal Mint employees who might be convinced to procure or part with one of these coins," Alexander said.

- 'Cash-cow' -

An image posted on the Mint's website last year showed the proposed Brexit coin with the words "peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations" inscribed above the then-anticipated leaving date.

The words echo a famous quote from the first inaugural address of Thomas Jefferson, a driving force behind American independence and the third president of the United States.

The Mint typically produces millions of its coins -- which are of a higher standard than circulation currency and come in different metals -- commemorating an event.

It struck a special 50-pence in 1973 when Britain joined the European Economic Community -- as the EU was then called -- and again in 1992 and when it held the presidency of the bloc in 1998.

Richard Beale, a coin expert at collectibles company Warwick & Warwick, said it had been issuing more and more commemoratives in the last two decades, on everything from beloved children's story characters to the Chinese zodiac. 

"The Royal Mint are using this as a bit of a cash-cow to be honest," Beale said.

It has also previously encountered unexpected situations akin to the current uncertainty over its Brexit edition -- which may give pro-Europeans hope of history repeating itself.

In 1936 the Mint produced a coin to mark the coronation of Edward VIII the following year.

But the event famously never went ahead after he was forced to abdicate in order to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson.

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