It’s been a quarter of a century since the first UK £2 coins were struck for circulation, sparking a year of celebrations, but the coin’s history actually stretches back to 1986 when the first commemorative UK £2 coin was struck for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. This was the first time a sporting event had been commemorated on UK coinage.
This release was followed by commemorative coins celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Bill of Rights and the Claim of Right (Scotland) in 1989; the 300th anniversary of the Bank of England in 1994; 50 years since the end of the Second World War and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations in 1995; and finally, a coin struck to celebrate England hosting the tenth European Football Championships in 1996. Although these coins have the same diameter as the post-1997 circulating £2 coin, they are single-coloured nickel brass and much heavier.
They were mainly intended for collectors and the most sought-after of the seven coins is the Tercentenary of the Claim of Right, which had a mintage of just 381,400.
The Introduction of a Bicolour Coin
After a review of the United Kingdom’s coinage in 1994, it emerged that there was a requirement for a UK £2 coin to enter general circulation for convenience in payment and change-giving, and in weight compared with two £1 coins. To determine an appropriate technical design for the coin and to ensure it would perform well in circulation, consultation took place with the vending machine industry, members of the public and special interest groups, including the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Age Concern. The consensus from the consultation favoured a larger, bimetallic coin so it would be easily distinguishable from the other coins in circulation, harder to counterfeit and recognisable by the blind because of the raised join between the two parts of the coin.
The Winning Design
A new design was required for the reverse of the coin and a competition took place that was open to members of the public. Bruce Rushin, an art teacher from Norfolk, was behind the winning design, which he based on a series of concentric circles that tell the story of technological development from the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution and from the Computer Age to the internet. Taken from a letter written in 1676 by Sir Isaac Newton to his fellow scientist Robert Hooke, the edge of the coin features the phrase:
‘STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS’.
One of the Nation’s Most Distinctive Coins
Planned for issue in November 1997 and struck the same year, the new bimetallic £2 coin featured Raphael Maklouf’s definitive coinage portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, but the issue of the coin into circulation was delayed until 1998. The delay led to a crossover in the obverse portrait, as when production of the coin resumed, the 1998-dated piece featured the new portrait of Her Majesty by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS on the obverse. Since its release into general circulation, the £2 has become commonplace in everyday change, and has featured more than 50 reverse designs commemorating everything from the Commonwealth Games to the end of the Second World War.
Groundbreaking Achievements and Discoveries
From Isambard Kingdom Brunel to Charles Darwin, numerous figures in the field of discovery have called Britain their home. Over the last quarter of a century, the UK £2 coin has paid tribute to many achievements and discoveries that have shaped the modern world, including innovative feats of engineering and groundbreaking theories such as evolution through natural selection.
Masters of Their Craft
Works of literature that stand the test of time often share the same characteristics – incredible writing and overarching messages that tell timeless human truths. It is no surprise that the literature penned by the likes of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Robert Burns and Charles Dickens remain revered today, still taught in schools and appreciated by modern readers. Over the past 25 years, the UK £2 coin has paid homage to each of these writers, immortalising their literary legacies in miniature.
Fighting for our Freedom
With a heritage that dates back several centuries, the British armed forces are highly respected across the world. Over the past 25 years, the UK £2 coin has honoured the nation’s land, sea and air forces, as well as anniversaries of battles and important moments in Britain’s military history. From the centenary of the First World War to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the coin has paid tribute to the fallen heroes who fought and gave their lives in the name of peace and liberty.
A Changing World
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the £2, it is fitting to reflect on how the world has changed since its introduction, particularly given the symbolism of Bruce Rushin’s ‘Technology’ design. The internet, which was still in its infancy from a public-use standpoint in 1997, now plays an integral role in our everyday lives. The same goes with smartphones, where we can now organise our financial affairs through an app, stream live TV and movies, and make instant video calls to people living on the other side of the planet. Whilst technology continues to evolve, coin collecting endures as a popular hobby, with the £2 coin serving as a favoured piece for both experienced and budding collectors.
Limited Edition 100