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NUMISMATICS; GOLD BULLION COINS ANNOUNCED BY BRITAIN

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LEAD: THE British Royal Mint has introduced its new Britannia gold bullion coinage. The program consists of four legal tender coins: a basic piece containing one troy ounce of gold plus fractional variants with gold contents of 1/2, 1/4, and 1/10 of an ounce.

THE British Royal Mint has introduced its new Britannia gold bullion coinage. The program consists of four legal tender coins: a basic piece containing one troy ounce of gold plus fractional variants with gold contents of 1/2, 1/4, and 1/10 of an ounce.

All four coins are identical in design. The obverse bears the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II designed by London artist Raphael Maklouf. The reverse features a modernized portrait of Britannia, an allegorical female figure used on British coinage since the days of the Roman occupation. Around the border, encircling this figure, are a statement of the gold content, the inscription ”Britannia” and the date.

The coins were designed by Philip Nathan, an engraver whose previous works include Britain’s 1981 Royal Wedding crown for Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The portrait may come as a jolt to hobbyists more accustomed to the prim, sedate Britannia on old British pennies. However, the surprise should be pleasant. On the new coins Britannia is standing, not seated, and her gown is alternately clinging and flowing in a manner reminiscent of Miss Liberty’s on the United States Saint-Gaudens double eagle. Britannia holds a trident in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. Her left hand rests upon a shield.

The gold is 22-karat, alloyed with copper. This fineness of .9167 has been the standard for British gold coins since the reign of King Henry VIII. It also is the fineness of the United States Mint’s American Eagle gold bullion coins. By contrast, Canada’s Maple Leaf is .9999 fine. In opting for 22 karats, the Royal Mint was influenced not only by tradition, but also by a wish to make the new coins more durable.

The one-ounce Britannia carries a face value of 100 pounds. Denominations of the smaller pieces are 50 pounds for the 1/2-ounce, 25 pounds for the 1/4-ounce and 10 pounds for the 1/ 10-ounce. Although they are legal tender, the coins are worth substantially more as precious metal. The one-ounce piece contains more than 275 pounds’ worth of gold at current value of the metal.

The Royal Mint also is producing proof versions of the coins at more substantial premiums. Proofs are available individually. In addition, the mint is offering a four-coin set containing one example of each denomination plus a two-coin set containing the 1/4-ounce and 1/10-ounce pieces.

Proof mintages are limited to 2,500 apiece for the individual one-ounce and 1/2-ounce coins; 3,500 apiece for the individual 1/4-ounce and 1/10-ounce pieces; 10,000 four coin sets and 12,500 two-coin sets. Besides their superior quality and special packaging, the proofs also will be distinguishable by a small deviation in design: Each proof coin will carry the artist’s signature as ”P. Nathan,” while the ”P” will be omitted on regular strikes.

Individually, prices are $875 in U.S. funds ($1,175 Canadian) for the one-ounce proof, $450 ($605 Canadian) for the 1/2-ounce, $245 ($330 Canadian) for the 1/4-ounce and $100 ($135 Canadian) for the 1/10-ounce. The four-coin set is priced at $1,595 ($2,140 Canadian). The two-coin set costs $325 ($437 Canadian). Send orders and inquiries to the British Royal Mint, c/o Barclays Bank of New York, N.A., P.O. Box 2570, New York, N.Y. 10164-1060. PROOF EAGLES The United States Mint is accepting orders for proof examples of the 1987 American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins. This is the second year for the U.S. bullion coin program and the second time the Mint has offered proof versions. As it did a year ago, it is making both gold and silver proofs in the 1-ounce size. In addition, it is offering something new: a proof version of the 1/2-ounce gold Eagle.

Orders can be placed through Dec. 31. However, the Mint may have to stop taking orders for one or more of the coins before the scheduled deadline if demand exceeds production.

The 1-ounce gold proof is priced at $585, the 1/2-ounce gold proof at $295 and the two-coin set of both gold proofs at $870. The 1-ounce silver proof is priced at $23. There is no limit on how many pieces may be ordered. However, the Mint reserves the right to reduce the size of orders, if necessary. The coins can be ordered without an order form from Customer Service Center, United States Mint, 10001 Aerospace Drive, Lanham, Md. 20706. Checks or money orders are payable to the United States Mint.

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Photo of gold bullion brom Britain

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