A die trial piece is a coin-like piece that we produce when we are developing new coins and techniques at The Royal Mint. In basic terms, they help us determine the viability of a new product or process.
How are Die Trial Pieces Produced?
Once the idea for a new product has been signed off and the relevant designs have been approved via The Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC), each project is assigned to an engineer. The engineer becomes responsible for creating a theoretical process on how to successfully produce the new product or process, as well as testing that theory.
The engineer may conduct several experiments and trials to get to a point where they feel comfortable launching the product to the public. They will then arrange a meeting for the designers, the production team and marketing teams to view and approve the finished product. Throughout the testing process, die trial pieces are typically manufactured in very small batches by the engineers and production teams.
Why are Die Trial Pieces Needed?
Die trial pieces play an essential role in developing new products and are vital as part of the production process for several reasons:
• Die trial pieces provide us with an opportunity to ensure the product meets our high standards of craftsmanship before the final run takes place.
• Die trial pieces allow us to physically view a coin before it is launched into production, helping us ensure that the 2D design rendered on the physical product meets our expectations.
• Die trial pieces are also kept on-hand during the production run as a reference point for the production team, so they can maintain the quality expected of the finished product.
What’s more, we keep a single die trial piece from every product and test for reference and safekeeping at The Royal Mint Museum. The engineering team often use die trial pieces from the past, some from decades or even centuries ago, as inspiration for new products and a recent example of this includes our remastered edition of the Una and the Lion coin as part of The Great Engravers Collection.
What Purpose do Die Trial Pieces Serve in the Creation of Coins?
Die trial pieces give us the opportunity to study the designs and concepts generated by artists in a physical form and they allow artists to refine their designs to ensure the very best products are produced. Die trial pieces also allow us to hone our production techniques so we can yield high quality, expertly finished products.
How Rare are Die Trial Pieces?
In relation to the amount of production pieces we manufacture, die trial pieces are extremely rare. We typically produce between seven and 30 die trial pieces for each product, depending on the complexity and number of trials required. However, once the product is approved, most of the die trial pieces are destroyed and we catalogue only a handful of pieces – usually around three – for reference purposes.
Has The Royal Mint Always Produced Die Trial Pieces?
There are centuries worth of die trial pieces in the collection at The Royal Mint Museum, which shows that they were used as far back as the eighteenth century. Traditionally, die trial pieces were used in research and development exercises to test our capability of making coins from different alloys and specifications.
Modern die trial pieces are primarily used for testing new designs, although we still carry out research and development testing on new coin types from time to time. A recent example of this would be the ten-kilo gold Proof coin we produced to mark the conclusion of The Queen’s Beasts Collection, which is the largest coin we have produced in our 1,100-year history.