It is interesting to watch what other mints do with circulating and commemorative coinage. Each mint is governed by its own laws and regulations that are very different than the coin design process required of the US Mint. While the US Mint is very regulated, other mints have the flexibility to create interesting coins and do it in a way that involves the public. One mint that is using its flexibility is Great Britain’s Royal Mint.

The Royal Mint is a crown corporation answerable to the Queen. While the Queen has the final authority of all Royal Mint activities, the Mint is required to consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer (a position equivalent to the US’s Secretary of the Treasury) and the Prime Minister. Although this gives the Royal Mint a lot of flexibility, the Royal Mint uses their power judiciously—as they showed last year by redesigning British circulating coinage for the first time in 40 years, after decimalization.

With the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games a few years away, the Royal Mint is preparing by starting the design process. To commemorate the games, the Royal Mint is planning issue 50 pence coins with 27 different reverse designs representing the different sports that are part of the games. The obverse will continue to use the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. But rather than go through a traditional design competition by having a competition amongst artists, the Royal Mint is opening the design competition up to the entire nation.

The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom. Those interested should go to the Royal Mint’s special website for entry information. Design winners will receive a gold version of their coin, get to see their coin being produced at the Royal Mint, and receive a £1,000 prize (currently about $1,473). The following video was produced by the Royal Mint and features Chief Engraver Matt Bonaccorsi:

Along with the regular competition, the Royal Mint is holding two other competition for students. There will be a design competition for children aged 6 to 12 years and a design competition for children aged 13 to 19 years old. The younger competition winner will not receive cash and the school where the winner of the older competition attends will receive £10,000.

Deadline for the competition is the end of April. It will be interesting to see how the process progresses. It looks like the Royal Mint has an interesting idea to get the country involved. I will be watching to see how successful they are with this program. Maybe the US coin bureaucracy can learn something from this venture.

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