The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 14, April 6, 2008, Article 21


[On Wednesday Phil Mernick forwarded a copy of the Royal
Mint's press release announcing the new reverse designs for
Britain's coins.  He writes: "Very different!"   Indeed,
the new designs will likely take some explanation and some
'getting used to'.  As Dick Johnson notes below, the concept
is borrowed from the medallic world, although the young
designer may well have conceived of it independently. Here
is a short excerpt from the Mint's release. -Editor]

"Today, the Royal Mint is proud to unveil the new designs
for the reverse of circulating coins used in the United
Kingdom. It has been almost 40 years since the most current
reverse designs were introduced and the new designs will
renew and reinvigorate the UKs coinage.

"A different detail from the shield of the Royal Arms is
shown on the reverse of the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p
coins and when placed together the coins reveal the complete

"The Shield of the Royal Arms has been given a contemporary
treatment and its whole has been cleverly split among all
six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the 1 coin
displaying the heraldic element in its entirety.  This is
the first time that a single design has been used across a
range of United Kingdom coins.

"Against all the odds, a young artist has won a public
competition and devised a stunningly original series that
stands as an imaginative and clever solution."

To view all of the Royal Mint's materials on the new design, see:
Full Story

[Dick Johnson was the first to forward a newspaper article
about the Mint's announcement.  He also sent a copy of it to
friends at the American Medallic Sculpture Association -
here's an excerpt of his reactions. -Editor]

In America the U.S. Mint redesigns one coin denomination at
a time. Obverse by one artist, reverse by another. How much
better to have one artist design multiple coins at one time.
This is exactly what happened this week in England (at least
new reverse designs, with the same portrait of the Queen on
the obverse).  But note the touch of creativity:  the six
coins, one of each denomination, can be placed adjacent to
each other "to form a complete image of the royal shield of
arms. The 1 coin features the complete shield."  That is
medallic charm!

For more information on the American Medallic Sculpture Association, see:
American Medallic Sculpture Association

[The following are excerpts from The Independent's article
on the Mint's announcement. -Editor]

In the biggest change to coinage since decimalisation, new
designs were introduced yesterday that form a jigsaw-like
image of heraldic symbols when the various denominations
are laid out next to each other.

When correctly assembled the "tails" sides of six coins from
1p to 50p form an image of the royal coat of arms, carrying
the symbols of the nations of the UK.

Each denomination carries parts of two sets of three lions
passant guardant, the Scottish lion rampant and the harp of
Ireland. The new 1 coin carries the complete image.

The coins, the heads sides of which retain the 1998 portrait
of the Queen by Ian Rank-Broadley, are believed to be the
first in the world designed to form a unified picture when
put together.

None of the new coins carries the ancient symbol of Britannia,
who has guarded the nation's currency for 1,000 years but who
may return on one-off commemorations for special events.

Other symbols heading for the smelter of numismatic history
are the portcullis and chains (1p); ostrich feathers (2p),
thistle (5p), lion (10p), rose (20p). Britannia appeared
on the old 50p.

Matthew Dent, a 26-year-old designer from Bangor, north
Wales, designed the reverses after winning a competition
launched by the Royal Mint in 2005. It is the most significant
redesign of the country's coins since 1968.

If some of the other 4,000 designs pitted against Dent's
work had been chosen, the new sides of the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10,
and 50p might have been a Spitfire, a DNA double helix,
fish and chips or a pint of beer.

Entrants were given a free hand to come up with ideas but
were advised to consider heraldic motifs and themes. Mr Dent,
whose winning idea earned him 35,000, explained: "I felt
the solution to the Royal Mint's brief lay in a united design.
The idea of a landscape appealed to me  perhaps this landscape
could stretch off the edge of one coin and appear on the edge
of another. Then I decided to look at heraldry." Speaking at
the launch at the Tower of London, the historic home of the
Royal Mint, Mr Dent said: "I would love it if the coins are
played with by everyone from kids at school to folks in a pub."

Sir Christopher Frayling, chairman of the design board, which
picked out the design from among those from 500 entrants, said:
"I think these designs will become a classic in the history
of coin design."

*Coins tend to be changed when a monarch dies but, after 56
years of the Queen's reign, the Royal Mint decided its metallic
art had been "around a long time".

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

[It was a nice touch to hold the announcement ceremony at
the Tower of London, the early home of the Royal Mint.
Below are excerpts from another story on the new coins from
The Telegraph, along with some reader comments. -Editor]

The apprehension felt before the publication of designs for
the new coinage was understandable. Britain has had a lacklustre
coinage since 1968, and it should not have lasted this long;
but trends in design being what they are, and political
considerations interfering, something frightful might have

The new coinage does not match the glory days when the designs
of Pistrucci, de Saulles or Mackennal: but it could have been
far worse.

The new reverses are clean, spare, and their sequence logical.

The abstracts of royal arms will not be to everyone's taste,
but they strike the eye immediately as handsome, and in their
way are more in keeping with the traditions of the coinage
than the first decimal designs were.

The absence of Britannia, which is surely no political statement,
is sad: but it would be a rash numismatist who believed she has
brandished her trident for the last time.

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

One reader commented: "This looks like a government plot to
stop even the most hardened Euro-skeptics grieving over the
loss of our much-loved coins and accept the Euro.... if Welsh
nationalists, angry with Matthew Dent's omission of the Welsh
dreagon, decide to burn down his Bangor home, the government
should give him free accommodation in a building which,
fittingly, used to house the Royal Mint - the Tower of London."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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