The Royal Mint is planning to produce a 22-carat gold coin weighing one kilo (2.2lb) to commemorate next year's Olympics. Legislation to allow the new mega-coins cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons on Friday last week (4th February 2011).
The law currently prevents coins from being minted outside of regulation weights but Tory backbencher Mark Lancaster said MPs needed to change the rules. He said the Royal Mint wanted to produce 60 gold coins with a face value of £1,000 and 14,000 silver coins with a face value of £500 each.
The coins, the largest ever to be circulated in the UK, would cost an estimated £40,000 and £1,250 respectively and were part of London's bid for the Games. All of them would be put up for sale while Britain's best-known artists would design the coins.
Proposing his Coinage (Measurement) Bill, Mr Lancaster told MPs said it would 'remove a technical legislative obstacle'.
'This will allow the Royal Mint to continue to develop new and innovative designs and exciting opportunities to continue topush coinage boundaries,' he added.
'Because of their very large size, the 1kg coins will be an exciting, artistic and eye-catching part of the Olympic Games. If the legislation is not passed, then the 1kg coin element of the Olympic coin programme will unfortunately have to be scrapped.The Royal Mint, in consultation with the London Organising Committee, will need to consider an alternative product to fill the gap in the programme. But none of the alternatives would have anything like the appeal of the 1kg coin.'
His Conservative colleague David Nuthall said the coins would leave a lasting legacy. 'It is one item I can see being left in people's wills to future generations for perhaps centuries to come,' he said.
Treasury Economic Secretary Justine Greening said the Government supported the Bill.
She said: 'The Bill before the House will allow the Royal Mint to play its own part in the success of London 2012. 'While the legislation is intended to help the Mint create kilo coins for the 2012 Olympics, it will also allow coins of this size to be struck for other significant events in the future. It is important to do all that we can to create a level playing field on which the Royal Mint can compete, appealing to collectors worldwide even at the very top end of the market.'
Greening stated that 1kg coins from previous Olympics had been 'big sellers', with 14,000 sold to commemorate Sydney 2000, 20,000 for Beijing eight years later, and there were 'high hopes' the figure would rise when London hosts the Games next year.
The Bill was given an unopposed second reading and now goes for detailed consideration in committee.