Honouring 200 Years of the RNLI
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How we built a snowman

Categories: Collect

Read more to find out how we captured Raymond Briggs’ celebrated characters on a 50p coin.

The story of The Snowman™ was entirely hand-drawn. So, each time we’ve set out to capture the characters on a coin, we know the design has to recall the charm of the original illustrations.

This year’s Snowman coin was designed by award-winning illustrator and animator Robin Shaw. Robin aspired to work with Snowman creator Raymond Briggs after watching it on television as a child and this was an ambition he went on to fulfil, collaborating with Raymond on several film projects.

Robin explains the design process in more detail:

“At the heart of the story is the relationship between the little boy and the Snowman. Starting with a handshake, it grows stronger with everything they teach each other and the adventures they share. But it’s only when they hug, that we fully appreciate the depth of emotion.

“I wanted to capture this in one single image. Obviously, it needed to work on a small scale so clarity was key. I sketched the design quite a few times, playing with angles of heads, how much of the little boy’s face could be seen, whose arm covered whose and so on. It just felt like the intricacies of all those factors affected how the hug would be read. It had to be incredibly specific and – in typical Briggs’ fashion – understated at the same time.

“Something I’m really pleased with this year is the simplicity of the design. The emotion and clarity sit nicely alongside the more graphic and tactile element of the snowfall. It can be tricky to keep in mind while working on the design that it will be transcribed into a three-dimensional metal object that sits in the palm of your hand. This affects how you draw up the final design, trying to make sure it works for the sense of touch as well as sight.”

A number of our coins that celebrate childhood characters include colour-printed silver Proof editions. The Snowman™ 2020 Collection is no different, but this time we’ve also struck a special edition with a colour-printed coin finished to Brilliant Uncirculated standard.

Robin Shaw has worked closely with Raymond Briggs for many years. His inspiration for this design is the special bond between the little boy and his snowman.


From concept to coin

Ieuan Williams is a New Product Introduction Engineer at The Royal Mint, and his role was to make sure that the designer’s vision was realised on a coin. The final printed coins you see have been through numerous processes to check that each one is perfect – retaining their bright, bold colours for years to come.

“There were numerous steps in producing the coin, and at each stage we liaised with Penguin to ensure the coin struck the right note. We were able to use our latest digital printer to produce The Snowman™ 2020 50p coins, which meant we could achieve different effects on one coin.

“The first stage is to add a layer of clear primer, followed by white, so when colour is placed on top it really pops. Areas of the coin are then masked before more colour is added. The characters themselves are the stars of the coin and more colour is added so they really stand out.

“A die is produced – this is the tool that strikes the coin with thousands of tonnes of pressure – and these coins are struck multiple times to ensure the standard of the Brilliant Uncirculated and Proof finish. These have to be lined up perfectly or the layers will be out of place and the whole design will fail.

“Usually we hold trial runs of 100 to 1,000 Brilliant Uncirculated coins and around 25 for the silver Proof editions; this makes sure everything is flawless before we strike larger numbers of the coins. This design was particularly challenging because the colour runs edge-to-edge. This meant more trials than usual, but it was hugely rewarding when we eventually got it right.

“It’s been challenging, but fun. The festive season came early to The Royal Mint this year and everyone involved has been excited to work on this project. Holding the coin reminds you it’s a beautiful story that never fails to tug at the heartstrings, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.”


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