Happy New Year from the Royal Mint Museum!

In recent months we have been dropping hints about an exciting project to come in 2024. The wait is over. This year the Royal Mint Museum is planning to explore the theme of coins and the sea.

Recovered silver spanish coins recovered from sunken ship

Recovered silver spanish coins recovered from sunken ship © WH_Pics

Through a series of linked elements we will explore the role coins have played in a maritime setting: how they have been used by sailors and traded by merchants, how they have been tokens of good luck or the captured wealth of a rival, how their designs have formed the identity of nations and how the romance of their loss and salvage has captured the imagination of people of all ages.

Our programme begins with our 2024 short story competition which opens Monday, 19th February. We are asking children aged 8-11 to write a story of no more than 500 words about a ship carrying a cargo including gold coins. The ship sails into a storm and gets into trouble, what happens next? You tell us!

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The competition is aimed at increasing accessibility to our collection, promoting literacy and supporting the libraries of schools and the community. The winning 500-word story wins a voucher for £5,000 for the pupil’s school or local library from our friends at Peters and is illustrated by a professional artist.

We are pleased to announce that our celebrity guest judge this year is Greg Jenner and the accomplished coin artist David Lawrence will be illustrating the winning design.

Our next temporary exhibition will also be based around coins and the sea and planning is well under way.

Our Exhibitions Manager, Hannah Spruce, says ‘The sea has played an important part in the British national identity and has shaped a way of life for thousands of years for this island nation.’

‘This link between coins and the sea goes deeper than simply the images on our coins. Throughout history coins have been transported by sea for trade, lost in shipwrecks and become the subject of many pirate treasure maps. All of these links will be explored in the exhibition, alongside some fascinating objects and even some sunken treasure.’

The semi-submerged hull of the 'Aksai'.jpg

The semi-submerged hull of the 'Aksai' © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Where did Britannia come from? Did pirates really bury their treasure? What was the pay like for an 18th century sailor? What do you need to do if you find a large amount of coins under the sea? Was a shilling really used to press-gang people into the Navy? If you want to know the answers to these and many other nautical questions then you will need to keep a look out for our brand new podcast which launches in June.

The episodes will cover a variety of topics, including Maritime Imagery on coins, Britannia, Maritime Trade, Life on Board, Shipwrecks and Pirates. Starting with questions posed by objects in the collection, our Information and Research team will be travelling around the country to interview experts and bust some myths about the relationship between coins and the sea.

Shipmates carousing on shipboard © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.jpg

Shipmates carousing on shipboard © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

To complement the project, we will be producing a variety of online resources so keep checking our website for articles from partner organisations, in-depth content about coins closely linked with Britain’s maritime heritage and highlights from our coin cabinets and tool store. Finally, our Collections Manager is working hard behind the scenes to give you access to more of our collection than ever before. Watch this space for updates!

As you can see 2024 is shaping up to be a great year for the Royal Mint Museum. We hope you’ll join us for an opportunity to explore the world of numismatics and engage with a topic which captures the imagination through colourful characters and wonderful objects.

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