Monday 12 October, 2020

Verdict of the Trial of the Pyx delivered virtually for the first time in its 700-year history

•    Rishi Sunak has passed the Trial of the Pyx - as Master of the Mint he is held responsible for the result of the Trial - one of the UK’s oldest judicial processes
•    A Jury, made up of members of the Goldsmiths’ Company, confirmed that British coins had once again met regulatory standards
•    The verdict, which was held virtually for the first time in its 700-year history due to Covid-19, has never once failed to be delivered.
•    Over 24,000 coins from The Royal Mint went on 'trial' at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London in January this year  
•    The Trial of the Pyx is the oldest form of independent quality control with its origins in the 13th Century
•    The Goldsmiths’ Company has been exclusively responsible for proceedings since 1580

Delivered via video conference, The Queen’s Remembrancer, Barbara Fontaine, today announced that the Chancellor has passed the annual Trial of the Pyx – one of Britain's oldest judicial processes – which tests the quality weight, composition and diameter of the coins produced by The Royal Mint.

This year’s Verdict – usually scheduled for late April, or early May – was postponed due to Covid-19 and has been held virtually for the first time in its 700-year history.

Prime Warden (Chairman-equivalent) of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Richard Fox, commenting on the virtual Verdict today said: “Amidst the deep sense of uncertainty and unease during the current national crisis, it is more important than ever that we can be relied on to ensure the continuation of a vital legal procedure, which protects consumers and upholds the quality of the nation’s coinage. The Trial has never failed to deliver a verdict in over 700 years and switching to a virtual format meant we were able to continue this unfailing tradition, while ensuring the safety of colleagues and visitors.”

Addressing jurors and representatives of the Goldsmiths’ Company, The Royal Mint and HM Treasury, Barbara Fontaine, The Queen’s Remembrancer, commented on the historic significance of the unique virtual format. She compared it to other historic moments of resilience during pandemics, such as the achievements of Sir Isaac Newton, former Master of the Mint, during the Great Plague of 1665.

The Verdict marks the end of a three-stage process, which started in January, when a jury of goldsmiths carefully counted and weighed a selection of new coins. The Trial is usually adjourned for three months to allow the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office time to test the coins, which involves taking samples via drilling, and analysing the composition. 

Over 24,000 coins were brought to the Trial this year at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London, the home of the Goldsmiths’ Company – one of the twelve major Livery Companies of the City of London – who have been exclusively responsible for proceedings since 1580 and for testing the quality of precious metals since 1300.

Historically, failure to pass the Trial of the Pyx can result in a prison sentence or a fine of the equivalent deficiency, as the Master of the Mint found out in 1318 and 1349 following poor test results.

The trial fulfils a legal requirement imposed by an Act of Parliament (Coinage Act 1971) to conduct an examination by jury to ascertain that the coins of the realm, produced by the Royal Mint, are of the correct weight, size and composition.

Anne Jessop, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint said: “As the maker of UK coins for over 1,100 years, we are delighted that the coins submitted to this year’s Trial of the Pyx ceremony have passed. The Trial of the Pyx is one of Britain's oldest judicial processes, testing the quality and accuracy of each coin we produce - something that we at The Royal Mint is proud to be a part of.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s verdict has been delivered virtually for the first time in 700 years, allowing us to continue an age old tradition that ensures the accuracy of the coins’ people carry in their pockets.” 

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