Collecting is a varied and rewarding hobby that allows you to explore your passion in more detail, curating a collection that ignites your imagination. Perhaps you started your collecting journey when you discovered The Royal Mint had commemorated one of your favourite themes on a coin? However you first got started, there is so much more to the coins in your collection than their face value.
Each coin comes with a story, steeped in the history of how it was made and why that theme became commemorated on coinage. Even circulating coins have their own fascinating stories. You can trace the story of the British monarchy through the coinage portraits that appear on the obverse of circulating coins, from Alfred the Great to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch who had five coinage portraits throughout her reign.
The Coins of Queen Elizabeth II
The coinage of Queen Elizabeth II is a fascinating example. Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne in 1952 and went on to reign for more than 70 years. During this time, the coinage of Queen Elizabeth II saw some significant changes. Mary Gillick designed the first coinage portrait of the monarch and – even though the portrait was replaced after decimalisation – the beautiful portrait remained on Maundy money until the end of her reign.
Decimalisation was the biggest change to the nation’s coinage throughout its history. This saw the United Kingdom adopt a decimal currency to replace the system of pounds, shilling and pence that had been in place for centuries. In order to complete this enormous task, The Royal Mint had to relocate to larger purpose built premises in Llantrisant, South Wales.
Portraits on Coin
A coinage portrait designed by Arnold Machin RA replaced the Mary Gillick portrait. Machin also designed a new portrait for British stamps and the artist drew on the coinage portrait he had created for inspiration; this new portrait remained on stamps until the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Three more portraits featured on the coinage of Queen Elizabeth II during her reign until her sad passing in September 2022, when His Majesty King Charles III acceded to the throne.
Honouring the Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The accessions and successions of monarchs is only one of many stories that coins can hold. The introduction of new denominations holds a whole wealth of information too, such as our flagship coin, The Sovereign. First introduced during the reign of Henry VII, the king chose the name ‘Sovereign’ for his ‘new money of gold’ to establish the legitimacy and authority of the new Tudor dynasty. The Sovereign was replaced during the reign of James I by another gold coin and was then reintroduced during the reign of George III, when the need arose for a coin with a value of 20 shillings.
The Gold Sovereign
Italian engraver Benedetto Pistrucci was commissioned to design the reverse for this new Sovereign and his famous St George and the dragon design was the result of much hard work between the engraver and the Master of the Mint, William Wellesley Pole. This beautiful design has since enjoyed longevity on The Sovereign, appearing on Sovereigns struck for every monarch since the reign of Queen Victoria, and has only been replaced very rarely in favour of one-year issues marking special occasions for the British monarchy.
Discover the Heart of Collecting
These are but a few of the many exciting stories hidden in coinage crafted throughout the centuries. Whatever your chosen collection, there is a rich history behind every coin ready for you to explore and unravel. With The Royal Mint’s deep-rooted history in British coinage, you can get to the heart of your collections by discovering the compelling history behind the numismatic rarities in your possession.