Inspirational new designs for the UK coinage made their debut in 2008. The designs had been chosen from over 4,000 entries in an open competition and, in a bold concept unprecedented in British coinage, six coins unite to reveal a single image – a shield of the Royal Arms. Initially there had been no plans for a new reverse for the £1 coin, but during the selection process, The Royal Mint Advisory Committee felt that the coin should be part of the series and so the £1 coin became the key coin uniting the designs.
The Royal Arms of the present reign has remained virtually unchanged since the reign of Queen Victoria: the shield is quartered with ‘England’, three lions passant guardant, in the first and fourth quarters, the Scottish lion rampant in the second and the harp of Ireland in the third.
When it was introduced in 1997, the definitive £2 coin was the first bi-colour coin of the UK. Its reverse design, created by Bruce Rushin, celebrates the march of technology from the Iron Age to the Internet.
The central design features the decorative whorls familiar in Ancient Celtic art and surrounding this is a circle of cogs and wheels symbolising the Industrial revolution.
The twentieth century computer age completes the design, the third cupro-nickel circle depicting a pattern derived from silicon chips and the outer ring of nickel-brass representing the Internet. As a whole, the design is an evocative reminder that developments in technology have been built on the accomplishments of previous generations, an acknowledgement that is also summed up in the words chosen for the edge inscription, the words of Isaac Newton: ‘if I have seen further it is by STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS’.
One of Britain’s best-loved authors, Charles Dickens is celebrated on the commemorative 2012 £2 coin. Dickens was born on 7 February 1812 and spent an idyllic childhood, first in his birthplace of Portsmouth and later in Chatham, Kent. The family then moved to London where, in due course, his father was incarcerated for debt and the 12-year-old Dickens put to work in a blacking factory. Deeply interested in social reform he embarked on a career as a journalist at the True Sun radical newspaper and as ‘Boz’ wrote short stories for the Morning Chronicle. His experiences along with his rich imagination,exhilarating humour and powerful social sensibilities were used to create enthralling stories with wonderfully extravagant characters in which life in Victorian London, at once vibrant and pitiless, was vividly exposed. His novels were tremendously popular during his lifetime and are still adored by readers all over the world.