The Stories Coins Can Tell
The 50p coin struck to celebrate the 50th anniversary of decimalisation features a reverse design by Dominique Evans. Dominique is a senior designer at The Royal Mint and the creator of some of the most well-known and admired coin designs in recent years. Her portfolio includes coin designs celebrating the 65th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s coronation, the life and work of Jane Austen, and a commemorative design for the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day.
The designer has long had a passion for all things nostalgic, including coins, as she explains:
“I have always had such a fondness for coins, their designs and individuality. At The Royal Mint we have played a role in the key moments that have shaped the world for more than 1,100 years. Centuries of dedication have led us to create, craft and innovate these small objects that travel with us every day, a part of the fabric of our lives. From every visit to the local corner shop, and each precious purchase with pocket money, to a bus journey for that all important first date, coins are the very things that have facilitated those experiences that make and connect us.
“If the average coin lasts around 30 years and is exchanged 100 times per year it would be transacted 3,000 times, moving to different people and places. If only a coin could talk and tell us its history, from catching the number 109 bus, buying ice cream on Brighton Pier, roses for a loved one or a coin toss for the most eagerly awaited football match. It makes you wonder when you look at the coin in your hand, ‘what did this coin do before it met you?’.
“For so many fabulous and treasured years at The Royal Mint, I have had the joy to work with the most valued of colleagues and admired of experts. But I have one very special person to talk to about times past, who may not have known exactly what my research was for, but could always talk so easily about each and every subject. You see my nan, little did she know from the stories that she told me, the way she smiled, her eyes lit up, allowed me to be by her side through her own experiences.
“History has become for my nan and me, a place where we can meet to share and explore together, suddenly so comforting and familiar to her again in her world where new things can be quite confusing. Time is changing so many things for us as a family, but the memories that we can share bring us closer together. I think this is so true of the time that we are living in now, when there is so much change around us and we are adapting to connect in different ways.
“The coins of our past such as the pre-decimal coins, although redundant hold such a magical connection and key to the past. I recently asked my nan if she could remember what was on a farthing? So very sure she said, ‘a bird’. OK I thought, I wonder if she could remember what bird it was? With a smile she said, ‘a wren’. From that day we have used coins more than ever before as a starting point of our armchair journeys together.
“When working on this coin design, my fascination with how coins are part of all our lives was at the forefront of my research. I thought about how coins travel with us in our pockets, purses and wallets, moving from till to bank to sit for a while, until again they go on another journey, another adventure. I thought of all of the piggy banks, jars, sofas and drawers into which coins had been thrown or lost.
“This led me to approach creating a design that spoke of the transition from pre-decimal to decimal coins. I considered the shape of our much-loved 50p coin, in this case marking 50 years. I read stories and heard people say that even though they understood the reason for change, they had and still have a fondness for the pre-decimal coins. Coins all over the country found themselves loose in random jumbles in boxes and drawers, which led me to place the smaller denominations together, as if you had just found them and were looking at them all from above. The sweet wren peeks out from the crown of a threepence, sitting alongside the rose of the sixpence, and next to the iconic Britannia. All the coins are depicted in their actual size, for people who used them to remember them fondly, and for a new generation to understand.
“I hope that this decimal day design will ignite smiles and memories and that people will not be able to resist getting their old pre-decimal coins out and placing them on top of this coin with a smile. I can imagine grandchildren with their grandparents, piecing together a jigsaw of their past as they collect each of these much-loved coins of which the design is made, and that memory, one of our most treasured possessions shines brightly at the heart of every moment that is shared.”
Dominique’s design features on the reverse of the Decimal Day 2021 UK 50p Coin, which is available in several editions. We also have a number of carefully selected historic coins and sets that bring a sense of nostalgia to the occasion. All are presented in specially designed packaging, giving a ‘backstage’ view of decimalisation whilst sharing our stories and inspiration. Visit royalmint.com/decimal-day to view the collection.