The British Royal Mint Selects Stack’s Bowers Galleries to Sell

The Historic Trial of the Pyx Coins

The Trial of the Pyx is an ancient and rigorous ceremony conducted by The Royal Mint to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the nation’s coinage. Dating back over 700 years, it is one of the oldest judicial ceremonies.

The Trial of the Pyx

The Trial of the Pyx is an ancient and rigorous ceremony conducted by The Royal Mint to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the nation’s coinage. Dating back over 700 years, it is one of the oldest judicial ceremonies. Beginning in the 13th century, the quality of the circulating coins produced by the Royal Mint came under increased scrutiny by the monarchy. Periodically, the then Master of the Mint was ordered to put aside a select number of coins, which could then then be tested for fineness and composition against the official standards. This procedure would evolve into the historic Trial of the Pyx that remains an essential part of British numismatics even today. 

The Trial of the Pyx gets its name from the boxes in which the coins are transported, which is derived from the Greek word meaning “wooden box.” These wooden boxes were originally stored in Westminster Abbey in the Pyx Chamber. The composition of the coins was tested against samples from a trial plate, a thin sheet of metal produced in the official standard fineness.  In order to pass the trial, the coins had to be of the same or higher quality compared to the trial plates. Several magnificent trial plates survive from the earliest era of the Trial of the Pyx and are housed in The Royal Mint Museum.

Since 1871, the annual Trial has been held at Goldsmiths’ Hall and presided over by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. The total number of coins evaluated during the Trial of the Pyx varies each year depending on the number of coins produced by The Royal Mint. Some Trials have included more than 50,000 coins for evaluation, reflecting a proportional sampling of all the circulating, commemorative, and bullion coins produced. This number is just a small fraction of the more than 3.3 billion coins and blanks prepared by The Royal Mint during an average year. 

The ceremony is conducted around a large wooden table in Goldsmiths’ Hall at which sits the King’s Remembrancer, jurors, and employees from The Royal Mint. The jurors are presented with 50-coin packets and then distribute the coins into a series of copper and wooden bowls, each of which designates a different type of testing. Coins placed into copper bowls are eventually taken for assaying by the Goldsmiths’ Company, who has two months in which to conduct the evaluation.

A portion of the coins handled by jurors that are not sent for assay are returned to The Royal Mint’s vaults to be cataloged. It is coins from this selection that Stack’s Bowers Galleries and The Royal Mint are presenting to collectors through this historic auction presentation. Every coin bears distinct evaluation marks associated with the Trial of the Pyx, making each a truly unique treasure.

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, commonly known as the Goldsmiths’ Company, is one of the ancient livery companies in the City of London. These livery companies are ancient guilds or associations that originated in the medieval period and were historically responsible for regulating their respective trades or crafts. As such, the Goldsmiths’ Company originated as a guild for goldsmiths and silversmiths and played a crucial role in regulating the quality of craftsmanship relating to precious metals— including specifically the procedures of assaying and hallmarking. Today, the Goldsmiths’ Company’s most visible role involves their oversight of the proceedings of the Trial of the Pyx. However, like many livery companies, the Goldsmiths’ Company remains involved in charitable and educational activities including the training of individuals in the goldsmithing and silversmithing trades.

Goldsmiths’ Hall

Goldsmiths’ Hall is a historic and prestigious building located in the heart of London near St. Paul’s Cathedral and serves as the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Goldsmiths’ Hall has a rich history dating back to its original construction in the early 19th century, with the current building completed in 1835. The architecture of the hall is notable for its classical and neo-Gothic design, featuring grand interiors, high ceilings, heavy woods, and marble staircases, reflecting the elegance and grandeur of its time. Goldsmiths’ Hall holds tremendous cultural and historical significance in the United Kingdom, serving as a symbol of London’s rich mercantile and craftsmanship history. Today, Goldsmiths’ Hall remains most closely associated with the annual Trial of the Pyx,  which has been hosted at the venue since 1871.

The Assay Master

The Assay Master holds a prestigious position within the Royal Mint, responsible for overseeing the accuracy, quality, and integrity of precious metals used in coin and medal production. They also ensure that The Royal Mint adheres to laws, regulations, and industry standards governing assaying, hallmarking, and the production of coins and medals. This role is closely tied to the centuries-old tradition of assaying, which certifies the purity of precious metals.

The Assay Master is actively involved in initiatives focused on research and development, as well as new minting technologies. This includes exploring new testing techniques, improving production efficiency, and addressing emerging industry challenges. They also attend industry conferences, collaborate with other mints, and provide expert advice on assaying and metal quality-related matters. Outwardly, the Assay Master represents The Royal Mint in official capacities and ceremonies, both domestically and internationally—among which is the historic Trial of the Pyx.

The King’s Remembrancer

The King’s Remembrancer is a legal officer associated with the Royal Courts of Justice in the United Kingdom and holds a position of tremendous historical significance. The position embodies traditions that date back many centuries and is responsible for many administrative and ceremonial aspects within the monarchy. While the exact responsibilities have evolved over time, the role currently maintains a focus on legal proceedings and financial matters, acting as a conduit between the monarchy and the British legal system.

The King’s Remembrancer often presides over significant ceremonial events including—most notably—the Trial of the Pyx.  Acting on behalf of The Crown, the King’s Remembrancer oversees the proceedings at Goldsmiths’ Hall during the trial, ensuring proper conduct, maintaining standards, and contributing to the integrity of the coinage produced by The Royal Mint. The King’s Remembrancer is instrumental in upholding both the legal and traditional aspects of the Trial of the Pyx, ensuring that the assessment of coin quality follows procedures with precision.

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