Royal visits and tours are prestigious events for those who host such occasions. This is certainly no exception in the case of the Royal Mint, which hosted such a tour and subsequently created treasured rarities for the occasion. On December 13, 1937, a Royal Visit to the Royal Mint occurred. The hosted royalty included Queen Mary, consort to King George V, and her two grandchildren, Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II), then age 11, and Princess Margaret Rose, just seven years old. Escorted through the mint by Deputy Master of the Royal Mint, Sir Robert Johnson, the Royal Family got to witness how the coinage of Great Britain and its territories was minted. The Royal Family was taken to see special coins being struck and were presented with these very same coins.
For this wonderful occasion, the Royal Mint prepared special dies featuring the designs of coins under Great Britain and properties struck by the Royal Mint that featured animals. These dies included designs from Australia incorporating a kangaroo on the 1937 penny and a Merino ram head for the 1937 shilling; an East Africa 1937 shilling with a lion; a 1937 Fiji six pence with a sea turtle; a Great Britain 1937 farthing with a Eurasian wren; a 1937 Ireland feoirling with a woodcock bird, a half pingin with a sow and litter, a pingin with a hen and chicks, a three pingin with a hare, a six pingin Irish wolfhound, a scilling with a bull, a floirin with a salmon, and a half coroin with an Irish hunter horse; a 1934 Mauritius half rupee with a stag; a New Zealand 1937 sixpence with a huia bird, and 1937 florin with a kiwi bird; and a 1923 South African farthing with a pair of cape sparrows. Each die was used to strike uniface sterling silver coins in specimen finish or proof quality. A total of five sets were produced and placed into boxes to hold the coins.
Of the five sets produced by the Royal Mint, a set was presented to each of the members of the Royal Family that had visited the mint that day, including Queen Mary, Princess Elizabeth, and Princess Margaret. Those sets are still owned by the Royal Family and are in the Royal Collection. A set was also given to the Royal Mint Museum and has since been removed. The final set was given to Sir Robert Johnson, who had accompanied the Royal Family on their visit to the Royal Mint. His set was sold and broken up after his death.
The coins from Sir Robert Johnson set had appeared in the auction since their sale in other collections and auctions, including several pieces in the Norweb collection. Any coin from the set is special and incredibly rare, as they are currently unique outside of institutions. In January 2020, PCGS received the honor of grading three coins from the Sir Robert Johnson set. Two of the coins were the two pieces in the set from New Zealand. The only Fiji coin was the third piece submitted for grading. All coins were examined, verified to be genuine, and graded SP65 by PCGS.
It is a great honor to see coins marking a moment in history where, on one December day in 1937, a tour of the mint produced something exquisite for two young girls and provided a treasure for the numismatic hobby for years to come.
- Monarchy, Money & Medals by Jeremy Cheek