In Matthew McConaughey’s latest film, Gold, he plays a character who dedicates his life to making a fortune thanks to a gold mine he finds in Indonesia. It is of course based on a real-life story, but have you ever wondered where all that gold goes when it comes into the UK?
Some of it, we might never know, but there is a portion of it that just goes straight back into your pocket. How? Thanks to the coins that are manufactured every day, 24/7 at The Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, where it moved in 1968 from its previous house at Tower Hill.
If you ever decide to visit the headquarters, you will get to discover first-hand how the change you carry around is made. The whole process is complex and it involves a thorough mixing of materials that are then melted and blanked.
Just picture this: they make 90 million coins. Every week.
These coins go through casting furnaces, through machines that remove impurities and rolling machines to polish them, so that they have the right thickness. Their blanking presses make 10,000 per minute alone.
Loaded was lucky enough to witness how the workers at The Royal Mint spend their days, and it is astonishing the amount of work that it is done there, and what a long process there is from rough material to the final coin that we use to buy whatever we need.
There was even a bit of a scoop: a new £1 coin is coming soon, and loaded got to mint its own coin using a coining press – not available for circulation, of course.
The history of coin-making in the UK is richer than any of us suspects, and it goes back to the 15th century and Henry VII, who first created the gold sovereign to show off his importance and establish himself as the absolute ruler.
Unfortunately, gold sovereigns had to be removed from circulation after the First World War because, well, the gold was needed to pay for the costly fight.
A symbol of wealth, there is no doubt that gold outshines everything. Gold ingots worth over £390k can be stored at The Royal Mint (although no one wanted to reveal where the big room full of ingots was), and while gold is mainly used there for the circulation coins, it is not their only department: they also have a medals area (think of London 2012), a commemorative area, and since 2016, the bullion division.
Gold is present in our lives every single day, even if we fail to see it. We never wonder about it, but where has that gold come from? Who has found the mine? Who has been sent to dig out the gold? Who made their business out of it? People like McConaughey’s character (based upon real-life David Walsh) are the ones who make a living out of it. It is a fascinating story that hides behind something as small as a coin.