Government-Owned Versus Private Mints

In an ideal situation, a government owns and operates its own mints. Due to economic conditions, not every nation has this luxury; some nonissuing entities find it necessary to contract with outside sources for their coins and bank notes. These governments can contract with another government's mint, or they may contract with a private firm that produces coins to order.

In 1650, the Spanish king sent a new viceroy to the Potosi Mint in what is today Bolivia to investigate the debased silver coinage being minted there. Several mint officials were executed and the designs on all Spanish coinage of the New World was changed from a design showing two hemispheres to that of the portrait of the king to indicate the newer coinage was now of proper weight and purity.

One example of a private mint was owned by Matthew Boulton in eighteenth-century England. Boulton went so far as to try to convince the United States to close its mint and contract with him to produce U.S. coinage. Although this proposal was rejected, some of the contemporary coinage blanks on which U.S. coins were struck were purchased from Boulton.

In modern history, the best known private mint is likely the Pobjoy Mint based in the United Kingdom. The Pobjoy Mint competes against such government-owned mints as the British Royal Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint for foreign coin contracts.

Private and government-owned mints compete for business strike coinage contracts. The country requiring the coins prepares the coins’ specifications, including their metal content, weight, diameter, magnetic properties, designs, and the number or mintage required. The lowest bidder typically receives the contract. Not all government-owned mints solicit foreign contracts, though. Some only strike coins for their own country.

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