Royal Mint unveils new British coins

The Royal Mint, the institution that makes British coins and was set up during the reign of King Alfred the Great back in the year 886, has unveiled the new designs to Britain's coins, the biggest changes to Britain's coins since the country's currency was decimalised 40 years ago.

Royal Mint reveals new coin designs

By Andrew Pierce

The new designs on Britain's coins feature the Royal Coat of Amrs (shown above). The Three Lions (top left and bottom right segments) represent England&Wales, the Lion Rampant (top right segment) represents Scotland and the golden harp (bottom left segment) represents Ireland. The 1 coin will feature the whole of this Coat of Arms, whereas the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p coins will feature segments of it and it will be possible to fit those coins together like a jigsaw puzzle to form the whole Coat of Arms (for decades we may see children and people in pubs playing this game if for a bit of fun)

The Royal Mint has unveiled the biggest changes to Britain's coinage in 40 years to a chorus of disapproval.

Historians, designers, and MPs have criticised the changes which show elements of the Queen's coat of arms on the reverse of seven coins from the penny to the pound.

The old designs of the coins (1p had a portcullis, 2p had the Prince of Wales' three ostrich feathers, 5p had a thistle, 10p had a lion wearing a crown, 20p had a rose with a crown on top, 50p had Britannia with her shield, trident and a lion and the 1 had several designs, including a dragon and the Three Lions)

The new designs of the coins (2 coin is not shown as that remains the same). The 1 coin has the Royal Coat of Arms on it. And, if you carefully, the other coins (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p) all have segments of the Coat of Arms on them and it is possible to fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle to form the complete Coat of Arms

The six designs on the 1p through to the 50p coins can be pieced together to form a complete image of the royal coat of arms.

The 1 coin features the complete Royal shield. The design, chosen after a nationwide competition, is designed to underline the Government's commitment to the Union.

The shield in the design features the three lions of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second, and the harp of Ireland in the third.

There is no Welsh dragon. But the most contentious change has been to remove Britannia from British coins for the first time in three centuries.

Stephen Bayley, the founder of the Design Museum with Sir Terence Conran, was not impressed.

He said: "It seems a tad elegiac that 'supporters of the Union', whoever they might be, are now required laboriously to re-assemble their identity from a coinage as fragmented as it is devalued. And did I miss the Welsh dragon?

"Britannia has disappeared (after a debut in 1672) but I'm not sure she ever attracted much loyalty as a symbol, unlike Madeleine in France. Paris recently chose a supermodel as a source for its matron saint. I suppose Kate Moss would excite momentary interest before coins disappear entirely.

"Otherwise, what other iconography would capture the mood of contemporary Britain? Probably a no frills airliner zooming off to the horizons. That or an Indian Land-Rover."

Britannia first appeared as a goddess almost 2,000 years ago when the Romans created her as a personification of the British Isles. She was on a Roman coin during the rule of Emperor Hadrian but her first appearance on a British coin came during the reign of Charles II on the copper farthing.

Andrew Roberts, the historian, said: "It is a very sad day for the Union. These new designs have replaced Britannia, who has been a patriotic symbol of the British Isles since ancient Rome."

David Davies, a Tory MP on the Commons Welsh select committee, said: "As a proud British subject, monarchist, and Welshman I am disgusted that there is no proper representation of the Principality, especially as the coins are produced in Wales. This is another attempt to undermine the Union."

The new coins will come into circulation this summer, replacing the old coins with familiar designs such as the penny's portcullis and chains. It is the first change to the country's coinage since decimalisation was introduced in April 1968.

The winning design by Matthew Dent, 26, from Bangor, was chosen from more than 4,000 entries. Mr Dent said: "I felt it was important to have a theme running through from one to another.

"I can imagine people playing with them, having them on a tabletop and enjoying them. I would love it if the coins are played with by everyone from kids at school to folks in a pub."

Andrew Stafford, the chief executive of the Royal Mint, said: "It's the only work of art that every member of the general public touches every day, that is important to the nation's way of life.

"We had to make sure that the coin design was true to the heritage of British coins and gave fresh inspiration and modernity to something that has been in existence for 40 years."


The London Mint, as its name suggests, was situated in London originally. This was at the time that England was an independent nation. Now that England is just one of four constitutent parts that make up the UK, the Royal Mint, as it is now known, is situated in Wales.

The London Mint first became a single institution in 886, during the reign of Alfred the Great, but was only one of many mints throughout the kingdom. By 1279 it had moved to the Tower of London, and remained there the next 500 years, achieving a monopoly on the production of coin of the realm in the 16th century. Sir Isaac Newton took up the post of Warden of the Mint, responsible for investigating cases of counterfeiting, in 1696, and subsequently held the office of Master of the Royal Mint from 1699 until his death in 1727. He unofficially moved the Pound Sterling to the gold standard from silver in 1717.

The Royal Mint moved from the Tower of London to new premises c.1809

By the time Newton arrived the Mint had expanded to fill several rickety wooden buildings ranged around the outside of the Tower. In the seventeenth century the processes for minting coins were mechanised and rolling mills and coining presses were installed. The new machinery and the demand on space in the Tower of London following the outbreak of war with France led to a decision to move the Mint to a new site on nearby Tower Hill.

The new building, designed by James Johnson and Robert Smirke, was completed in 1809, and included space for the new machinery, and accommodation for the officers and staff of the Mint.

The building was rebuilt in the 1880s to accommodate new machinery which increased the capacity of the Mint. As technology changed with the introduction of electricity and demand grew, the process of rebuilding continued so that by the 1960s little of the original mint remained, apart from Smirke's 1809 building and the gatehouse in the front.

The Tower Hill site finally reached capacity ahead of decimalisation in 1971, with the need to strike hundreds of millions of new decimal coins, while at the same time not neglecting overseas customers. In 1967 it was announced that the Mint would move away from London to new buildings in Llantrisant, ten miles west of Cardiff. The first phase was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 December 1968.

The winning entry in a public competition to design the first new British coin series for nearly 40 years was unveiled today. Matthew Dent, 26, from Bangor, North Wales, will have his work stamped on billions of coins for decades to come

This is the first major change to the UK's coinage since decimalisation was first introduced in April 1968. Mr Dent said: "For designs of mine to appear on a medium as significant and prestigious as the United Kingdom's coinage and to be produced and circulated in millions is a tremendous honour."

The new pound coin features the traditional shield design from the Royal coat of arms. The lower-denomination coins feature close-up details of the shield which, when fitted together, show the shield as a whole

The sovereign's coat of arms has evolved over many years and reflects the history of the monarchy and country

The shield shows the Royal emblems of different parts of the United Kingdom: the three lions of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second and the harp of Ireland in the third

More than 4,000 designs were received from 526 designers

The Queen and Prime Minister endorsed the winning design

Buckingham Palace and Downing Street hope the use of the coat of arms will reassure traditionalists and supporters of the Union

The other side of the coins will still feature the Queen's head

There are currently more than 27 billion UK coins in circulation, with more than one billion minted each year

Photographs by Paul Grover, except where indicated
Well at least they don't make the half-penny anymore. I question the need for the two penny coin though. If a billion coins are minted every year, I wonder how many British coins end up in tourist's glass jars around the world.
Meh, don't like the concept of the broken up coat of arms. It's not bad if you got some template to put them into which shows the whole thing for a collection, but besides that it just seems kinda amateurish in design.


Yeah looking back at them.... it sucks. I mean if you're gonna make something big and new after so many years of not touching the overall original design, do something great.... not some pre-schooler's puzzle book.

Seriously, that's what won out of how many other designs?

Lame.... I'd be pissed if Canada tried something like that. Sure we've had some silly things in the past like the various proviences on various 25 cent pieces and you could put that on a coin map of the country, and there was the poppy coin, olympic coin and a bunch of other weird ones.... but to redesign the official coins layout to something more permanent, one would sorta expect something uniform but unique to each currency.

Meh, I personally and professionally don't like it.
Last edited by Praxius; Apr 7th, 2008 at 12:18 PM..