Gladiators to Glasgow: A history of sport on coins

It may sound surprising, but coins and games have a common origin in Rome. At the end of the third century BC, when Rome was struggling to win a war against Hannibal (218-201 BC), a new set of coins based on the silver denarius was minted to pay the soldiers. At the same time, new games and festivals began to be put on every year as popular entertainment.

Early Roman denarius

Early Roman denarius showing the goddess Roma. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

In the late second century BC, when coin designs became more varied, they often represented family achievements. This is when games and coins really came together for the first time. People minting the coins used them to boast about the chariot racing and wild beast hunts that their ancestors had put on years before. This trend became very popular into the first century and beyond!

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A PNC or a PMC? All you need to know!

If you’ve seen a PNC or a PMC on The Royal Mint or Royal Mail websites from time to time I’m sure you will have admired them. However, if you’re anything like me, you may not know much about these attractive and interesting products. So, I’ve spoken to my colleagues here and our partners at Royal Mail to gather some background for you to put that right. I hope filling in some of the gaps about what a PNC or a PMC is will add to your enjoyment and appreciation of them.


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Marking The First World War Centenary

4 August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the day Britain, having declared war on Germany, entered the First World War.

It was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914 that set in motion a series of events which would lead to the beginning of the First World War. Following the assassination, Austro-Hungary served an ultimatum to Serbia; deeming the response to be unsatisfactory, they then declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914.

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The Final Years of Queen Anne – An Era Ends, a Legacy Remains

For a Queen who seems to have attracted relatively little attention in comparison to other British monarchs, the extent of the legacy that Queen Anne left to this country is, actually, quite considerable. In the final article of this four-part series, I review the influential people who shaped far-reaching events during her life-time and summarise her achievements and the legacy of her era that remains with us today.

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Gladiators to Glasgow: Big games on small change

You have probably heard about the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games 50p by now. Maybe you have even seen one, or bought one from The Royal Mint. We think that this coin is very exciting, but it also has a special place in the history of coins, and of sport on coins.

glasgow 2014 50p

Many people know that sporting events have their origins in the ancient world, the most famous being the Olympic Games. You could be forgiven for thinking that the idea of commemorating these events on coins is relatively modern, but it isn’t. The Romans often struck coins to celebrate games and festivals, in much the same way as we do today. We thought it would be interesting to look at some of the parallels between these coins, and to see how much ancient Rome has in common with Glasgow in 2014.

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Behind the design: The Glasgow 2014 50p

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games are officially underway and the first batch of Glasgow 2014 50p coins has already begun to enter circulation. With coin collectors everywhere on the look out for the latest 50p to add to their Great British Coin Hunt Collector Albums, we caught up with one person who can’t wait to find this 50p in his change – the designer, Alex Loudon.

commonwealth games 50p designer

Designer Alex Loudon (left) created the design with the support of Dan Flashman (right)

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Proof, BU and Bullion coins: What’s the difference?

You may already be a keen coin collector. You may just like coins in general and are thinking about starting a collection. Or maybe you’ve come across some of the coins we make here at The Royal Mint, as gifts, and are wanting to find out more about them? Whichever you are, you are sure to have seen the following words used in the descriptions of the coins we make: ‘Proof‘, ‘Brilliant Uncirculated‘, and ‘Bullion‘.

Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, you may be left wondering ‘What is the difference between Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Bullion coins?

The Royal Mint produces three types of uncirculated commemorative coin finish, they are ‘Proof’, ‘Brilliant Uncirculated’ and ‘Bullion’. Simply put, Proof coins are the highest standard of commemorative coin produced by The Royal Mint. Brilliant Uncirculated coins have a higher standard of finish than Bullion coins, without the extra finishing and detail provided on Proof coins, and Bullion coins have a similar standard of finish to circulating coins.

If that rather simple explanation didn’t answer the question, take a look at our latest video that explores the differences between the three: