UK's Royal Mint Doubles Production of Gold Coins

February 2, 2010

By: Thomas Biesheuvel and Nicholas Larkin
Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s Royal Mint, established in the 13th century, more than doubled gold-coin production last year as investors sought to diversify their assets and hedge against a weaker dollar and accelerating inflation.

Output rose to 125,469 ounces from 46,315 ounces a year before, according to data obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request. Gold averaged $974 (612 pounds) an ounce last year. Fourth-quarter production rose 54 percent to 25,078 ounces, the data show.

Gold’s nine-year bull market attracted hedge-fund managers including John Paulson and Paul Tudor Jones, while investors in the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest exchange-traded fund backed by bullion, amassed more metal than Switzerland’s central bank. The metal reached a record $1,226.56 an ounce on Dec. 3.

“People are obviously looking at physical gold more than paper,” Andy Davidson, an analyst at Numis Securities Ltd. in London, said by phone. “Coinage always seems to accelerate” in such conditions, he said.

Sales of American Eagle gold coins by the U.S. Mint increased 66 percent last year to 1.43 million ounces, its Web site showed. The mint suspended production in November of some coins because of depleted inventories. London-based luxury department store Harrods Ltd. began selling gold bars and coins for the first time in October.

Weaker Dollar

“There’s concern about monetary debasement, which is a big driver for gold,” Davidson said. “People are worried about other assets devaluing.”

Bullion climbed 24 percent in 2009 as the U.S. Dollar Index, a six-currency gauge of the greenback’s strength, slid 4.2 percent. The metal, which traded at $1,114 an ounce at 10:33 a.m. in London, typically moves inversely to the dollar.

The Royal Mint used 38 percent more silver last year, totaling 354,285 ounces, the data show. Production in the fourth quarter increased 70 percent to 83,902 ounces. Silver averaged $14.70 an ounce last year and traded at $16.75 today.

The U.K. mint moved to Llantrisant in Wales from London’s Tower Hill in 1968. It makes coins including the 22-carat 2010 U.K. Sovereign Proof, weighing 7.99 grams (0.26 ounce) and costing 320 pounds, the state agency’s Web site shows. A 22- carat coin has a 91.6 percent gold content, according to the World Gold Council.

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