Testing the Money: The Trial of Pyx

The Trial of Pyx is a near-800 year old ceremony to test Britain’s coinage. The Trial of the Pyx dates as far back as 1249. The Queen’s Remembrancer oversees the ceremony. Until the 19th century this duty was undertaken at the Court of Exchequer, but is now held at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London. The ceremony puts the Royal Mint on trial. Over a four-month period, nearly 100,000 are scrutinized. During the process, the coins are tested for imperfections or impurities in the metals used, therefore, confirming their value. 

Historic UK tells us, “The Trial of Pyx is a rather interesting one. Every day the Royal Mint collect samples of the coins they produce: this amounts to around 88,000 coins a year. These coins are then placed in boxes (or pyxes) and every February they are brought to Goldsmiths Hall. The Queen’s Remembrancer swears in a jury of 26 goldsmiths whose job it is to count, measure, weigh and assay the coins. In April or May he or she returns to hear the jurers’ verdict.”

Coins from the commemorative £1,000 coin (worth £49,995) made from a kilo of solid gold to the 20p piece, all denominations of coins are tested. According to Coin Books, 2017 saw the Trial this year was the new £1 coin, which has 12 sides and will be released to the public later this year. It is considered to be the most secure coin ever developed.


This one kilo gold coin celebrates the Queen’s 90th birthday. via Coin Books http://www.coinbooks.org/v20/esylum_v20n06a21.html

The Royal Mint provides these insights: “As one of the nation’s longest-established judicial ceremonies, the Trial of the Pyx has a rich and fascinating history. It brings together some of the United Kingdom’s oldest organisations and offices with the purpose of ensuring the quality and accuracy of the nation’s coinage. 

“The ceremony involves the Chancellor of the Exchequer (or nominated representative), financial leaders, representatives of The Royal Mint and freemen of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, commonly known as The Goldsmiths’ Company.”

“The word ‘pyx’ comes from the Latin word ‘pyxis’ or small box. In this case, it refers to the chests used to transport the coins. Throughout the year, in a procedure that has barely changed since the reign of Henry III, coins are randomly selected from every batch of each denomination struck, sealed in bags of 50 and locked away in the Pyx boxes for testing at the Trial.”


Business Insider describes the 2016 ceremony. “The opening of this year’s trial was on February 2nd was full of pomp and circumstance. It’s carried out by the Queen’s Remembrancer, a judge, who swears in the 16-strong jury who have the job of counting the coins sent for testing by the Royal Mint. While it’s mostly ceremonial, the Trial of the Pyx has an important message – merchants, not the state or the monarchy, must have power over the country’s currency. To allow the state to have power over the currency, risks eroding its credibility. Permission for the City of London to test the coins produced by the Royal Mint was granted by the Crown in the 13th century. Before that, the reigning monarch had a monopoly on producing and testing Britain’s coinage and would periodically alter the standards for the coins to finance wars. 

“‘There was the inherent danger of inflation and currency corruption,’ the Queen’s Remembrancer, Barbara Fontaine, said in her speech to open proceedings. The Trial was ‘a key stage of development of the international trust in our coinage.'”


These are the Pyx, reinforced boxes of currency ready to be assayed or tested. The word Pyx comes from the Greek for wooden box. In them are hundreds of envelopes containing thousands of coins. via Business Insider

Coin Books also gives us these other sources: 

To read the complete article, see:
Take a tour around the Trial of the Pyx — the 800-year-old ceremony to test the UK’s coins(www.businessinsider.com/inside-the-trial-of-the-pyx-2017-1/#the-ceremony-takes-place-in-the-opulent-goldsmiths-hall-in-the-city-of-london-members-of-the-public-and-invited-dignitaries-are-sat-on-one-side-of-the-room-the-queens-remembrancer-a-judge-sits-at-the-head-of-the-table-to-give-her-address-and-start-the-trial-she-isnt-actually-present-when-counting-process-happens-1)

For more information, see:
The History of the Trial of the Pyx (www.royalmint.com/discover/uk-coins/history-of-the-trial-of-the-pyx)

The History of the Trial of Pyx (The Goldsmiths’ Company) 

The Business Insider site has some magnificent images of the process, the room, etc. Check them out HERE

Check out all the Royal Mint has to share on the topic. 


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in British history, commerce, customs and tradiitons, Living in the UK and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Testing the Money: The Trial of Pyx

  1. Katherine Schmitt says:

    Regina, I am in awe of your knowledge. I truly value your commitment to edify and educate the Janeite community. Thank you!

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