What a surprising variety.
Volume 40, Number 5, May 2003
The issue of the new DNA £2 coin gave me the opporunity to reflect on the collectability of our coinage and the valiant efforts the Royal Mint makes to encourage us to specialise in our modern coins. Historically the £2 denomination has been with us for some time, having been introduced by George IV in 1823 and issued intermittently since then, although latterly not as a circulating coin, until 1997 when the bold step was taken to introduce it into everyday use. I was pleasantly surprised to note that there have been no less than 15 different designs for the £2 coin in the current reign since the decision was first made to produce the denomination as a commemorative coin way back in 1986 when a nickel-brass piece was struck to celebrate the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Prior to that it had only appeared as a gold “collector” coin alongside the £5 and the sovereign and half sovereign (when it is euphemistically known as a “double sovereign”). After the Commonwealth Games we were treated to coins marking the 300th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights and the Claim of Right (1989), the 500th Anniversary of the Sovereign (1989), the Tercentenary of the Bank of England (1994), the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II (1995) and of the founding of the United Nations (1995), the European Football Championships (remember the superb football-shaped dished coin of 1996?), the Rugby World Cup (1999) and then in 2001 the first of the bi-metallic commemoratives—the “Marconi” coin followed in 2002 by the second Commonwealth Games. All of these, even before you start looking for the various dates on the two distinct types of bi-metallic circulating £2s, can make a fascinating collection. You will be amazed how difficult some of them have become to track down despite the large numbers produced—when did you last receive a “Marconi” coin in your change? Add to this the many different metal strikes and the various reported edge lettering varieties and errors, then you have the making of a specialist collection. OK, so it may not rank up there with the Brand, the Murdoch, or the Slaney collections, but you will be amazed how hard and ultimately satisfying it could be to form a complete group. We are not privy to the future plans of the Royal Mint beyond the current year so we cannot predict what goodies they may have in store for us, but we often hear the grizzle from so many collectors that our coinage is “uninteresting and uninspiring” when compared to other countries. The US Mint has captured their nation’s imagination with the current “Quarters” programme that has got millions of people all over the world eagerly collecting. Some of the designs are a bit questionable to say the least, but that doesn’t seem to worry the collectors—they simply want to be “complete”. Compared to this I would suggest that our own Royal Mint are streets ahead, but what do you think? Please write in and let me know. I will publish a selection of the printable letters received in a forthcoming edition. Meanwhile, in this issue you can read all about the Royal Mint’s efforts throughout the ages, from the birth of the first stable English coinage in the reign of Edward II, the introduction of machinery in the age of Elizabeth I to the attempt at decimalisation during Queen Victoria’s reign.
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