How Queen Elizabeth's Passing Changes Gold Coins Forever
Today, I regret to inform you that Her Majesty Elizabeth II (by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith) has passed away at the age of 96. She reigned for 70 years, seven months and two days – the longest-ruling monarch in British history, the first monarch to celebrate both a Sapphire Jubilee in 2017 and a Platinum Jubilee this year, marking 65 and 70 years of her rule respectively.
She was crowned in 1953, when the UK was still rebuilding parts of London burned to the ground during the Nazi terror bombings of World War II. She saw 15 British prime ministers and 14 U.S. presidents serve during her time on the throne. It’s difficult to describe how much the world has changed over those seven decades…
But this isn’t the History Channel, this is BullionMax. So today we’re going to talk about the royal transition, and how it affects our business…
How does money change when the Queen dies?
Let me start by saying we aren’t used to this here in the U.S. because we pretty much put dead people on our money exclusively. The first president to appear on our money was Abraham Lincoln, whose portrait has been on the penny every year since 1909. Before that, U.S. money featured symbolic representations like the Walking Liberty designs we still see on American gold and silver eagles.
However untouched we are by the Queen’s passing here in the U.S., around the world a whole lot of things are changing – and a lot of them affect precious metals buyers.
Well, the U.S. is different from most places. Since the days of the Roman empire, gold and silver coins have been minted bearing the face of the monarch or ruler in charge at the time of minting. In Britain, this has been the case for over a thousand years, since the reign of King Athelstan.
So, even while her subjects pause to mourn her passing, mints around the world are scrambling…
Here’s what’s going on:
Once the succession is confirmed (and there’s no doubt that King Charles III will be the next ruler), world mints are selecting a new, authoritative portrait to base coin designs on.
“World mints” are working on this, because remember Royal Canadian Mint and Perth Mint as well as UK’s own Royal Mint all have Queen Elizabeth’s image on their 2022 coinage. The UK may announce a new, “official” portrait for their own coinage but sovereign mints might choose their own – like RCM did when they selected the Susannah Blunt portrait of Her Majesty for their Canadian maple leaf coins rather than the UK’s preferred Jody Clark.
If there’s no definitive portrait of Charles, well, that’s an issue. Odds are the mints have a contingency plan ready, though – after all, Her Majesty was 96.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of dies are retired and minting machines spun down while new dies are produced from the chosen design. And we’re not just talking about gold and silver coins here – Queen Elizabeth II is the face on all British money, from pennies to banknotes. The entire money production industry is grinding to a halt right now…
Fun fact: Historically, UK reverses the direction the monarch’s portrait faces when an heir ascends the throne. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth always faces right on coins, so King Charles III will almost certainly face left.
Depending on how quickly the world’s mints get their act together and fire up their equipment again, we may see coins featuring King Charles III this year. (If so, that means mintage year 2022 may be the ONLY year you can buy coins with both monarchs’ portraits on them – like in 2021, the only year you could get both Type 1 and Type 2 American eagles of the same mintage year.)
It’s not customary in British tradition to make new money with the face of a previous ruler. Which means that 2022 is very likely the last year we’ll EVER see Queen Elizabeth’s portrait on some of the world’s most popular gold and silver bullion coins, including:
- Canadian maple leaf gold and silver maple leaf coins
- Australian kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas
- British Britannias and of course the Royal Arms silver coin (the new King has the right to modify the Royal Arms)
And, as you might expect, this is a big deal for collectors.
Times of transition create big opportunities
Collectors often buy massively during such times of transition. Again, the most recent example of this in the bullion-buying world is the 2021 American eagle Type 1 to Type 2 transition.
Why do collectors go nuts? Because suddenly, unlimited-mintage bullion coins aren’t just a commodity. Now, a 2022 British gold Britannia with Queen Elizabeth II on it isn’t just an ounce of gold. It’s the final mintage of Queen Elizabeth’s last appearance on Royal Mint’s most popular gold coin.
And that’s how a gold bullion coin becomes much more desirable – in a single day.
Collectors are eager to snatch up what’s just become Queen Elizabeth’s final appearance on gold and silver coins. But that’s not all!
A lot of everyday folks who aren’t regular bullion-buyers? They want a keepsake to commemorate Her Majesty’s rule. They don’t want something chintzy like a bobblehead or a t-shirt – no, they want something classy and highbrow. You know what they love to buy?
Yep – gold and silver coins. They’re valuable, easy to display and make a great conversation piece.
So we see a massive surge in demand from collectors and from everyday folks – at the worst possible time! Remember, the sovereign mints are busy selecting a new design for King Charles III’s portrait or manufacturing new dies to make the first King Charles III coins. They’re very unlikely to keep making more coins.
Typically, what we see is an active secondary market full of those who bought first (in quantity) with the idea of upcharging the latecomers who are willing to pay extra for a memento of Her Highness, Queen Elizabeth II.
And yes, we’re already seeing a huge upswing in our order volume. (I actually saw a massive spike in orders before I heard the news about the Queen.) The window is still open right now to get your final year of Her Majesty’s reign-minted coins, but it won’t be for long.
Like I said earlier, this massive and worldwide change in minting hasn’t happened in our lifetimes. However, it has happened (obviously) many times throughout human history. The events I described are the general pattern that occurs when a monarch passes the torch to the next ruler of the Empire.
Whether or not you’ll be able to get King Charles III on a Canadian maple leaf or a Britannia minted in 2022, it’s all but certain you will not be able to get Queen Elizabeth II on gold or silver coins minted in 2023.