If it ain't broke.....

March 2005, Volume 42 No. 3
Following last month’s comment on coin designs we have received a number of letters emails et al both for and against the Royal Mint’s apparent “updating” of our coinage. By and large it seems that most of those who have responded are happy with the coins as “one-offs” but wouldn’t like to see the changes adopted on a long term basis. This immediately begs the question – why? Why are we as collectors, indeed as it seems as a nation, on the whole wary of change? It is estimated that the resilience of the Great British Public to further European integration has as much to do with the loss of the Great British pound as it has with the loss of any Governmental power or other sovereignty. Every time a new coin design is unveiled there are those up in arms about it, complaining that our identity is being eroded, our coinage cheapened and so on and so forth. Even those who are happy with the new designs seem to be content only on the condition that they are around for a year or two and no more and that our “proper” designs are retained. Why does the Royal Mail not meet such resistance whenever they bring out a new stamp design? Why does our coinage inspire such devotion and/or narrow-mindedness? After all in every other walk of life things are being updated, modernise, improved so why not our coinage? As mentioned last month if we hadn’t embraced new design and new technologies over the years we’d still be carrying around hammered pennies or even cowry shells and banknotes would be mere fantasy.

Can you imagine anything else in this 21st century world still bearing the same design as when it was first launched 35 years ago? I’m not talking about static things like buildings, that by their very nature retain their original looks, but rather things that are constantly produced anew every week – practically everything I can think of, from food packaging to electrical goods to cars has been redesigned or remodelled “brought up to date” but not the reverses of our coins (the £1 coin aside as it never had a standard design as such but rather has been changing every year since its inception). Even our banknotes have been completely changed and redesigned on a regular basis. Of course the Commemorative designs do go some way to alleviate any potential stagnation in our currency but even they meet with some measure of resistance strange when you consider how many Roman coins were struck to commemorate a victory, invasion or Emperor’s visit- the same people who lavish praise on such Roman coins would never dream of buying a “modern commemorative” but why not? Surely age is the only real difference when you come down to it isn’t it?!

So again I ask why the resistance? Why is it that anything new in the numismatic world is so often frowned upon? Why isn’t our coinage being redesigned on a regular basis? Why is the 1971 penny exactly the same on the Reverse as the 2005 version? Is it a case of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” or is the Royal Mint taking a more cynical view that with the Euro so “inevitable” a redesign is pointless. Perhaps they are waiting for a change of Monarch before anything so radical is adopted? We tend to subscribe to the former view - there can be no doubt that our coinage “ain’t broke” and as such is a redesign necessary or even desirable? That said we are interested in what readers think – and even more interested in what you think any “new” coinage should look like so now is your chance – we’re not making this into a formal competition but it might be fun nonetheless – write in with your ideas, better still draw them for us if we get enough we might very well put some of the better ones on display at Coinex and who knows if we REALLY like them we might pass them on to someone at the Royal Mint and who knows what may happen then!

As I said nothing formal, there’s no closing date we’re just interested. Do you think we need an overhaul of our coins and if you do (even if you don’t!) what do you think those coins should portray. This could very interesting indeed.

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In This Issue

Ancients22
The Rarity of Celtic Coins
How many are there really?
Out & About25
World's First Commercial savings bank
Ruthwell's savings banks museum
Background29
King Stephen
Irregular coinage of the Anrachy
Feature Article32
The year of the Rooster
Look at the Chinese new year
Insight35
Victorian Patterns
Table B - unofficial patterns and trial strikes
Medallic Miscellany39
Collecting Religious Medal IX
Some oddities explained
Profile42
Colin Narbeth
The "King" of banknotes
On the Fringe43
Cumberland Jack Medalets
A look at the "To Hanover" counters
Notebook48
The coronation medal 1661
Thomas Simon's Masterpiece
Banknote Feature57
Brazil, Colony and Empire
The early notes of this vast country
Reminiscences60
City of the Medieval Scrivener
The "Old Lady's" origins
Collector's Notebook67
Unofficial peace medals of WWI
Celebrations of peace
Coin Classroom72
The Holy Roman Empire
Identifying some difficult coins
The Collectors Page73
The lost stuart silver hoard
An Opportunity missed

Regulars

Coin news & views8
New Issues update14
Banknote new issues15
Royal Mint Bulletin16
Market scene19
Bookshelf46
Banknote news55
Price Guide to Halfpennies63
The Lexicon69
Coin Clinic70
Dealer's Lists74
Letters to the Editor75
Calendar77
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The Web Page84
Classified Advertising86