Designing Britain’s decimal coins began in 1961, far earlier than you may imagine.

The Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Faculty of the Royal Designers for Industry and the Royal College of Art were invited to nominate artists to submit designs for a new decimal currency. Christopher Ironside was one of the talented individuals invited to submit designs as part of a combined Royal Designers for Industry/Royal College of Art team.

The team were fortunate enough to win the competition, and Ironside’s designs were chosen to be taken forward.

Christopher Ironside worked tirelessly to produce designs fit for Britain’s national coinage. His wife, Jean, wrote an evocative tale describing the sacrifice and dedication that went into creating the designs in total secrecy at their home. This continued for 5 long years until, in 1966, Ironside was summoned to the Mint to be given the news that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Callaghan, was about to announce that Britain’s new decimal coins would be designed through a new open competition.

Ironside was effectively sent back to the drawing board, but he didn’t give up and worked even harder to produce a set of designs that would win the competition outright. This resulted in the coins that introduced Britain to decimal currency and which would cement Ironside's place in history.

For the first time, we are able to reveal the designs Ironside originally produced. The working drawings and moulds can be found at The British Museum while the coins themselves are held at The Royal Mint Museum.

The half penny coin features a Welsh dragon.

Decimal pattern trial coin from 1963 - 1/2p

The one penny coin features a Scottish theme.

Decimal pattern trial coin from 1963 - 1p

The two pence coin features Britannia.

Decimal pattern trial coin from 1963 - 2p

The five pence coin features three crowns.

Decimal pattern trial coin from 1963 - 5p

The ten pence coin features St George and the dragon.

Decimal pattern trial coin from 1963 - 10p

The twenty pence coin features the Royal coat of arms and preceded the introduction of a circulating twenty pence coin by almost twenty years.

Decimal pattern trial coin from 1963 - 20p

You can join the conversation about these coins on The Royal Mint blog.