It was the day after Valentine’s Day in 1971, the start of a new week, and staff at The Royal Mint held their breath as a very important day they had been getting ready for finally arrived. Ever since the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced that the United Kingdom would move their currency to a decimal system, staff had spent four years carefully preparing for the overhaul. Slowly, new coins had been introduced to aid the transition and a comprehensive campaign was launched to manage the concerns of the public before Decimal Day. This included everything from posters and television transmissions, to a song by Max Bygraves called ‘Decimalisation’.
Today, we don’t have to think twice about calculating the pounds and pennies in our pocket, and it’s difficult to imagine adapting to a different system. Banks weren’t computerised as they are now and they had to manually make the switch. The Royal Mint even had to find a new, bigger site away from its historical headquarters at Tower Hill to manufacture enough currency for the whole country. However, in spite of these significant challenges, when Decimal Day finally arrived everything went smoothly and the system was successfully adopted.
The coins in the Annual Sets feature the fifth and current coinage portrait of Her Majesty The Queen by Jody Clark on the obverse, but this coin has been struck with a twist. The Decimal Day 50p coin features the second effigy of Her Majesty The Queen on its obverse. This portrait was created by Arnold Machin RA for decimalisation to mark the transition and help people identify the new coinage. This nostalgic portrait has been struck for this special anniversary and will only appear on the Decimal Day 50p coins that have been struck for the 2021 Annual Sets.
Dominique Evans’ design marks the 50-year anniversary with a tribute to the coins that were replaced on Decimal Day.
A Touch of Nostalgia
“I’ve read stories and heard people say that even though they understood the reason for decimalisation, they had, and still have, a fondness for the pre-decimal coins. Coins the country over find themselves loose in random jumbles in boxes and drawers, which led me to place together the smaller denominations as if you had just found them and were looking at them all from above.
“The sweet wren peeks out from under above the crown of a threepence, sitting alongside the rose of the sixpence, next to an iconic Britannia, and all of the coins are the actual size they were 50 years ago. I really hope that this design will be a nostalgic reminder and talking point, and that people will not be able to resist getting out their old pre-decimal coins and placing them on top of this coin with a smile.”