The international event that much of the world had been left wondering would ever take place finally became a reality last month. The United Kingdom calmly and with minimal fanfare exited the European Union after being part of the mega-sized trade bloc for more than 47 years at 11:59 pm – 12 Midnight Brussels time on the 31st January.
The polarising event divided a nation on “leave” or “remain” lines, it cost the political careers of two Prime Ministers and some say it made the career of another. But ultimately, with three general elections since 2015, the December 2019 election finally made the decision. The UK was going to leave as scheduled and as the date set for leaving was looming, it became evident this time – after two delays previous, the bloc of 28 member-states would now become 27.
Brexit Delays Delayed Brexit Coin
All politics aside, a curious topic emerged from the debates and divisions, would the UK mint commemorative coins to mark the event and the answer which came from Her Majesty’s Treasury was – an emphatic yes! As a result, the Treasury unveiled plans to mint 50 pence coins which would make reference to BREXIT – not directly by name but with coins carrying the actual date of the UK’s departure from the European Union. However, with the two delays of BREXIT came two delays of these special coins being produced and released for general circulation. Test pieces dated “29 MARCH 2019” were produced and duly destroyed when it became clear the UK would not meet this date. The same scenario occurred with coins dated “31 OCTOBER 2019” which in their case more than a million pieces had to be melted down as the second delay was inevitable.
Third time lucky, the last general election ensuring a final departure date set on the 31st January 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Royal Mint set themselves the task of producing more than three million coins which were scheduled for release at the time of the United Kingdom’s official departure. By the next day, there were postings on social media pages of some spottings of the new BREXIT coins – both enthusiastic and those lamenting the whole movement. For the majority of Britons, many have not yet come into contact with the elusive commemorative coins – despite many living in large cities and municipalities, perhaps a few not even noticing one way or another.
Of course, depending on where any Briton who encounters the coins are concerned, they will either be a welcome sight or something to deride and even deface. Some anti-Brexiteers had threatened to do just this or remove them from circulation by rendering them useless. Many voicing an opinion against the whole process simply said they would refuse to accept them in change. At any rate, the coins have indeed been featured on just about every auction website. Thanks to modern communications and instant messaging, wherever they are being reported being distributed locally, the BREXIT coins are being snapped up and quickly removed from circulation by collectors and entrepreneurs. The Royal Mint’s retail side even got in on the act so to speak by offering specially packaged BREXIT coins singularly or together with the very first decimal 50 pence commemorative coin minted in 1973 – for the UK’s entry into the EEC, the pre-cursor to the EU.
Doubling the Brexit Coins in Circulation
Initially, three million Brexit 50 pence coins were minted to meet the January 31st date and the Treasury have now reported that an additional 1.5 million celebratory coins have since been placed into circulation increasing the total to 4.5 million. However, by the end of the year the Treasury has confirmed they aim to increase the number of Brexit coins in circulation, doubling them to more than 10 million pieces.
We all live in a time when much of the industrialised world is witnessing a significant decrease in the use of physical money, coins and banknotes due to greater methods of electronic payment options. So, it is encouraging that there has been a run on these coins, whatever the reason as coins have through their three millennia of use, carried important messages to the masses – and BREXIT has been shown to be no exception.
The author, Michael Alexander, is President of the London Banknote and Monetary Research Centre.
Here we announced the BREXIT coins.
Of course this was also a popular subject for collector coins as from Cook Islands.