The first coin in the Beatrix Potter Collection was released in 2016, and since that time it has become one of our most popular commemorative coin series. Bringing a commemorative coin to life requires input from many talented individuals across The Royal Mint, but none more so than our Product Team who are involved from concept development through to its release. Following the launch of Peter Rabbit’s final appearance on a UK 50p coin, we caught up with Product Manager Michelle McNamara, to find out more about her role and what she has enjoyed most about working in the wonderful world of Beatrix Potter.
Hi Michelle, how long you have worked at The Royal Mint?
I have worked at The Royal Mint since April 2016 when I joined as a Product Executive. I remember the day quite vividly as it was a very exciting week for the Marketing Team - the very first Peter Rabbit 50p had just launched! There was a great buzz of excitement in the team, as this was not only the first time a children’s character had appeared on a UK coin, it was also the first time The Royal Mint had produced a coloured coin.
Could you outline the role of a Product Manager at The Royal Mint?
Being a Product Manager at The Royal Mint is such a unique role – and something which I never expected to be doing when studying Graphic Design, Fine Art and eventually Marketing at University. If I had to describe it in one word it would be ‘varied’. One week I could be reviewing coin designs submitted for the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the next I could be checking that the shade of the prickles on The Gruffalo’s back are the exact shade of purple that they should be!
Like any job, my role comes with many challenges and unexpected tasks, but we have such a strong and skilful Marketing Team at The Royal Mint we all really pull together to deliver wonderful products and be the most amazing storytellers.
The most exciting thing about my job is that the coins I work on are cemented in history. Once a design has been struck on a UK coin, they will be found in people’s change, pockets and collections for decades to come – there are not many jobs where you get to say that!
What have you enjoyed most about working on the Beatrix Potter Collection?
It has been so rewarding to work on a collection of products incorporating a theme which is known and loved across generations. There are so many characters in the books, it has been lovely to give so many of them their time in the ‘spotlight’ and share their stories with new generations. It has also been wonderful to work with such beautiful illustrations when developing the coin designs. All are original and have been taken directly from Beatrix Potter’s much-loved books.
Working with the team at Penguin Ventures (part of Penguin Random House UK) has been an absolute pleasure throughout the last 4 years.
What other stand out products have you worked on, and what did you enjoy about them?
I have been very lucky to manage and develop so many exciting products during my time at The Royal Mint. The Snowman 50p launch in 2018 has been one of the proudest moments in my career so far. The coin design was so beautiful on its own, but when it was presented in an acrylic block printed with a festive landscape and falling snow, it looked fantastic – and was a Royal Mint first! Collectors clearly agreed as it sold out within hours!
Another coin I enjoyed working on celebrated the life of Professor Stephen Hawking, released in March 2019. It was a privilege to work on such a special product released by The Royal Mint. I was lucky enough to work closely with Stephen Hawking’s family while developing the packaging and copy to ensure we honoured their father in a respectful way. The coin design itself by Edwina Ellis is innovative and creates a very clever illusion – definitely one of my favourite coin designs to date.
Finally, I’d have to say the Queen Commemorative Coin, part of the Music Legends Series released in January 2020. This was a dream come true. My Dad introduced me to Queen when I was very young when he used to play their hits on his huge record player. Queen are one of my favourite bands and I can confidently say that I know every word to each of their songs! My colleague Chris Facey designed the coin, and it was so satisfying to see it come to life – a coin which celebrates all 4 band members of the decade-defining band.