Royal Mint Museum

Collections development policy




Name of Museum: Royal Mint Museum (RMM)

Name of governing body: Royal Mint Museum Board of Trustees

Date approved by governing body:

23rd April 2013









Item 1.0


Museum’s statement of purpose

Charitable objects

The Museum applied for and secured charitable status in November 2010.

The objectives of the Museum, as defined in the Memorandum and Articles of Association, are set out below.

-          Provide educational services to the public on the history of coinage and related artefacts and on the activities of the Royal Mint.

-          Maintain a museum and archive for the benefit of the public.

-          Protect and enhance the numismatic heritage of the United Kingdom including, in particular, that of the Royal Mint, through collecting coinage artefacts and related material.

-          Manage, document, conserve and safeguard the collection and other holdings to the highest appropriate professional standards.

-          Exhibit, interpret and provide access to the collection.

-          Provide services to the Royal Mint and HM Treasury in relation to coinage history, coinage design and coinage law.



Public benefit

The Trustees have recognised the two principles of public benefit and consider that as a charity the Museum meets them.

a)       That there must be an identifiable benefit or benefits and they must be clear, related to the aims of the Museum and must be balanced against any detriment or harm.

The objects of the Museum are, as stated above, to exhibit, interpret and provide access to the collection. The Museum’s collection offers a unique insight into the history of how coins have been made during the last 1000 years and is of benefit to academic study and to those who can access the collection through temporary and permanent exhibitions.

b)      That the benefit must be to the public or to a section of the public. That the beneficiaries must be appropriate to the aims and, if to a section of the public, must not be unreasonably restricted and that those in poverty must not be excluded from the opportunity to benefit.

The potential beneficiaries of the Museum are very wide and include not only those who can access the collection on temporary and permanent loan at several locations in the United Kingdom, but also through lectures that are delivered by members of the Museum curatorial staff to schools and other groups over a wide geographic area.

There are other areas in which the Museum provides public benefit, the principal of which are detailed below.

-          Playing an active part in the numismatic community of the United Kingdom through support given to national and local societies.

-          Advancing learning through help given to researchers studying the history of the coinage and/or the Royal Mint.

-          Actively engaging with the public through a dialogue generated by enquiries.


Item 2.0

An overview of current collections

The Royal Mint Museum has one of the finest numismatic collections in the world. It was established in 1816 by the Master of the Mint, William Wellesley Pole, to provide a permanent record of the work of the Royal Mint.

The collection contains approximately 80,000 coins – some three-quarters of which reflect the Royal Mint’s extensive overseas work, particularly for Commonwealth countries, including an abundance of proofs, patterns and trial pieces. So far as coins are concerned, the Museum’s primary interest is in the milled, or machine-struck, pieces of the last 350 years but the collection contains coins going back to the Medieval and Anglo-Saxon periods and also coins from the Ancient World.

In addition the collection includes something in the order of 12,000 medals and seals along with thousands of drawings, plaster models and electrotypes, and an outstanding collection of trial plates dating back to the 15th century. Above all it incorporates roughly 30,000 master tools and dies from the 17th century onwards, a collection whose importance is unrivalled in the United Kingdom.

The Museum Library contains around 8000 volumes as well as a wealth of archival material and photographs. Highlights include a copy of the Waterloo Medal Roll and a collection of 16th and 17th century books and pamphlets on British and European coins and medals received in 1818 from the library of Sarah Sophia Banks.

An estimate of the overall size of the collection arranged by type of material is set out below.

Coins – 80,000

Medals – 12,000

Seal counterparts and impressions – 1,750

Trial plates – 200

Banknotes and postage stamps – 300

Pieces of minting and scientific equipment, furniture and clocks – 100

Master tools and dies – 29,750

Plaster models and Electrotypes – 16,500

Drawings – 30,000

Weights – 300

Balances – 10

Books – 8,750

Journals and periodicals – 6,100

Sales catalogues – 3,150

Box-files of archival material – 650

Volumes of archival material – 1,250

Loose folders of archival material – 1,250

Photographs and negatives – 5,250

Glass negatives – 6,600

Videos and cassettes – 250

Architectural plans – 140

Paintings and engravings – 100

Sculptures – 10


Item 3.0

Themes and priorities for future collecting

The collecting policy of the Royal Mint Museum is to maintain as complete a record as possible of the coins and medals being struck by the Royal Mint. In the case of coins we would look to acquire material for both the United Kingdom and overseas and in the case of medals this should encompass both official and privately-sponsored medals. This provides by far the greatest proportion of accessions to the collection, there being in place an agreement to receive these pieces as soon as possible after they are struck.

To ensure that the Museum receives artwork, plaster models and master tools of all new designs for coins and medals struck by the Royal Mint, with particular emphasis on the United Kingdom coinage and official medals and seals.

To fill conspicuous gaps in the collection where possible. With respect to coins this would involve concentrating on British coins since 1662, in particular patterns, trials and experimental pieces that throw light on the evolution of designs and processes. With respect to medals this would involve any that relate directly to the history of the Royal Mint and its past members of staff and any, whether British or overseas, which illustrate minting processes. Also of relevance is material related to artists, politicians and others who have been associated in some direct way with the Royal Mint.

To acquire, from external sources as well as the Royal Mint, minting equipment as it becomes obsolete, such as presses, furnace equipment, weights and balances.

To acquire non-numismatic material such as photographs, correspondence, sculptures, paintings, books and other items relating to the Royal Mint and its past members of staff, with particular emphasis on Sir Isaac Newton who was Master of the Mint in the early eighteenth century.


Item 4.0

Themes and priorities for rationalisation and disposal

It is not anticipated that any extensive rationalisation or disposal will be necessary in the foreseeable future it may be possible in a very few instances to contemplate the disposal of duplicate material, in which case the procedure will be that outlined in item 13.


Item 5.0

Limitations on collecting

The Museum recognises its responsibility, in acquiring additions to its collections, to ensure that care of collections, documentation arrangements and use of collections will meet the requirements of the Accreditation Standard. It will take into account limitations on collecting imposed by such factors as staffing, storage and care of collection arrangements.


Item 6.0

Collecting policies of other museums

Royal Mint Museum will take account of the collecting policies of other museums and other organisations collecting in the same or related areas or subject fields. It will consult with these organisations where conflicts of interest may arise or to define areas of specialism, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and waste of resources.

Specific reference is made to the following museum(s):

-          British Museum;

-          Amgueddfa Cymru National Museums Wales

-          Ashmolean Museum

-          Fitzwilliam Museum

-          Bank of England Museum

-          British Postal Museum and Archive


Item 7.0

Policy review procedure

The acquisition and disposal policy will be published and reviewed at least once every five years. The date when the policy is next due for review is noted above.

CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales will be notified of any changes to the acquisition and disposal policy, and the implications of any such changes for the future of existing collections.



Item 8.0

Acquisitions not covered by the policy

Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in very exceptional circumstances, and then only after proper consideration by the governing body of the Museum itself, having regard to the interests of other museums.

Item 9.0

Acquisition procedures

RMM will exercise due diligence and make every effort not to acquire, whether by purchase, gift, bequest or exchange, any object or specimen unless the Board of Trustees or responsible officer is satisfied that the Museum can acquire a valid title to the item in question.

In particular, RMM will not acquire any object or specimen unless it is satisfied that the object or specimen has not been acquired in, or exported from, its country of origin (or any intermediate country in which it may have been legally owned) in violation of that country’s laws. (For the purposes of this paragraph ‘country of origin’ includes the United Kingdom).

In accordance with the provisions of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which the United Kingdom ratified with effect from November 1 2002, and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, the Museum will reject any items that have been illicitly traded. The governing body will be guided by the national guidance on the responsible acquisition of cultural property issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2005.

So far as biological and geological material is concerned, the Museum will not acquire by any direct or indirect means any specimen that has been collected, sold or otherwise transferred in contravention of any national or international wildlife protection or natural history conservation law or treaty of the United Kingdom or any other country, except with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority.

The Museum will not acquire archaeological antiquities (including excavated ceramics) in any case where the governing body or responsible officer has any suspicion that the circumstances of their recovery involved a failure to follow the appropriate legal procedures.

Any exceptions to the above statements will only be because the Museum is:

-          Acting as an externally approved repository of last resort for material of local (United Kingdom) origin

-          Acquiring an item of minor importance that lacks secure ownership history but in the best judgement of experts in the field concerned has not been illicitly traded

-          Acting with the permission of authorities with the requisite jurisdiction in the country of origin

-          In possession of reliable documentary evidence that the item was exported from its country of origin before 1970

In these cases the Museum will be open and transparent in the way it makes decisions and will act only with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority.

The Museum does not hold or intend to acquire any human remains.

Authorisation to acquire assets on behalf of the Museum shall be subject to the following financial limits:

-          Authorisation by the Director of the Royal Mint Museum – required for assets valued up to £10,000;

-          Authorisation by the Board of Trustees of the Museum – required for assets valued between £10,000 and £1,000,000.

-          Authorisation from Her Majesty’s Treasury – required for assets valued above £1,000,000.

The Museum will normally expect to receive from the vendor or donor:

-          Any records and contextual information about an asset it acquires; and

-          An assignment of subsisting intellectual property rights in an acquisition or the rights’ holder’s licence to reproduce the asset for the Museum’s general purposes.

Item 10.0


RMM will use the statement of principles ‘Spoliation of Works of Art during the Nazi, Holocaust and World War II period’, issued for non-national museums in 1999 by the Museums and Galleries Commission.

Item 11.0

The Repatriation and Restitution of objects and human remains

The Museum’s governing body, acting on the advice of the Museum’s professional staff, if any, may take a decision to return human remains (unless covered by the ‘Guidance for the care of human remains in museums’ issued by DCMS in 2005) , objects or specimens to a country or people of origin. The Museum will take such decisions on a case by case basis; within its legal position and taking into account all ethical implications and available guidance. This will mean that the procedures described in item 13.0 below will be followed but the remaining procedures are not appropriate.

Item 12.0

Management of archives

As RMM holds and intends to acquire archives, including photographs and printed ephemera, its governing body will be guided by the Code of Practice on Archives for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom (third edition, 2002).

Item 13.0


Disposal Procedures

Disposal preliminaries

The governing body will ensure that the disposal process is carried out openly and with transparency.

By definition, the Museum has a long-term purpose and holds collections in trust for society in relation to its stated objectives. The governing body therefore accepts the principle that sound curatorial reasons for disposal must be established before consideration is given to the disposal of any items in the Museum’s collection.

The Museum will confirm that it is legally free to dispose of an item and agreements on disposal made with donors will be taken into account.

When disposal of a museum object is being considered, the Museum will establish if it was acquired with the aid of an external funding organisation. In such cases, any conditions attached to the original grant will be followed. This may include repayment of the original grant and a proportion of the proceeds if the item is disposed of by sale.


Motivation for disposal and method of disposal

When disposal is motivated by curatorial reasons the procedures outlined in item 13.3 will be followed and the method of disposal may be by gift, sale or exchange.

The Museum will not undertake disposal motivated principally by financial reasons.


The disposal decision-making process

Whether the disposal is motivated either by curatorial or financial reasons, the decision to dispose of material from the collections will be taken by the governing body only after full consideration of the reasons for disposal. Other factors including the public benefit, the implications for the Museum’s collections and collections held by museums and other organisations collecting the same material or in related fields will be considered. External expert advice will be obtained and the views of stakeholders such as donors, researchers, local and source communities and others served by the Museum will also be sought.

Disposal criteria

-          The asset(s) to be disposed of must be a duplicate in every sense: i.e. the duplicate must be of the same metal, the same diameter, the same design and struck from the same pair of dies.

-          There must be at least one specimen in the Museum collection which would be a duplicate of the asset(s) to be disposed of.

-          If there is a difference in quality as between the duplicates then the Museum would retain the better quality specimen.

-          Assets selected for disposal should be of a very high value, i.e. in excess of £30,000 and the funds raised from the disposal of asset(s) must only be used for additions to the Museum collection, whether coins, medals or other items.

-          Full records will be kept of all decisions on disposals and the items involved and proper arrangements made for the preservation and/or transfer, as appropriate, of the documentation relating to the items concerned, including photographic records where practicable.


Responsibility for disposal decision-making

A decision to dispose of a specimen or object, whether by gift, exchange, sale or destruction (in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use for the purposes of the collections or for reasons of health and safety), will be the responsibility of the governing body of the Museum acting on the advice of professional curatorial staff, if any, and not of an individual acting alone.

Authorisation to dispose of assets owned by the Museum shall be subject to the prior written approval of the Board of Trustees.

When seeking authorisation to dispose of assets, the party proposing such disposal must put forward a written proposal confirming that proposed disposal meets the criteria set out above or indicating any areas in which the proposed disposal does not meet such criteria.


Use of proceeds of sale

Any monies received by the Museum governing body from the disposal of items will be applied for the benefit of the collections. This normally means the purchase of further acquisitions. In exceptional cases, improvements relating to the care of collections in order to meet or exceed Accreditation requirements relating to the risk of damage to and deterioration of the collections may be justifiable. Any monies received in compensation for the damage, loss or destruction of items will be applied in the same way. Advice on those cases where the monies are intended to be used for the care of collections will be sought from the CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales.

The proceeds of a sale will be ring-fenced so it can be demonstrated that they are spent in a manner compatible with the requirements of the Accreditation standard.


Disposal by gift or sale

Once a decision to dispose of material in the collection has been taken, priority will be given to retaining it within the public domain, unless it is to be destroyed. It will therefore be offered in the first instance, by gift or sale, directly to other Accredited Museums likely to be interested in its acquisition.

If the material is not acquired by any Accredited Museums to which it was offered directly as a gift or for sale, then the Museum community at large will be advised of the intention to dispose of the material, normally through an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal, and in other specialist journals where appropriate.

The announcement relating to gift or sale will indicate the number and nature of specimens or objects involved, and the basis on which the material will be transferred to another institution. Preference will be given to expressions of interest from other Accredited Museums. A period of at least two months will be allowed for an interest in acquiring the material to be expressed. At the end of this period, if no expressions of interest have been received, the Museum may consider disposing of the material to other interested individuals and organisations giving priority to organisations in the public domain.


back to top