At the heart
Volume 38, Number 5, May 2001
IN THE "News & Views" this month we see that Prince Philip is to retire as President of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee on the Design of Coins and Medals after more than 47 years in the post; he is not to be replaced and instead a Chairman, Professor Sir Christopher Frayling is to be appointed. The Royal Mint Advisory Committee is the body that examines all new designs for United Kingdom Coins and makes recommendations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Royal approval. It is this Committee therefore that has in effect been responsible; if not actually at the design stage, for all the coins we have had in circulation since its inception in,1922 and whilst there are the inevitable grumbles every time a new design is introduced, on the whole they haven't done too badly. We have a strong tradition of coin design in this country and it is a heritage of which we are justly proud. Some of the most beautiful coins in the world are British (Una and the Lion, The "Gothic" florin and crown, etc.) and our current selection are viewed by many countries with more than a little envy. The "Heraldic" series designed by Christopher Ironside and in use since 1971 has remained enduringly popular and later additions to it, namely the 20 pence and £I coins, complement it beautifully. It is a series that reflects the history both of Britain and its coinage and is so beloved by the populace that the very threat of its removal is enough to send waves of anger and protest through even the most mild-mannered of us. Even though the current Euro propositions allow for the obverse of the coins at least to have some national identity, that is not enough for the British who are more attached to their coins than any politicians ever give them credit for. It is an attachment that is mostly justified- compare Britain's coinage with that of other countries and you will see a depth of design too often lacking elsewhere. Even simplistic motifs like the lion of the 10p or thistle of the 5p are intricately carved and are works of art in their own right and the more omate pieces, like the current £I coin with Celtic'Cross and Broighter collar, are simply stunning. It is testament to the work of the Committee that these high standards are maintained year in, year out. And testament too that in this year's Coin of the Year Awards two UK coins achieved recognition as category winners-the £5 Diana Crown being voted most Popular Coin and the £2 Britannia being voted Best Silver Coin. Certainly the Committee's choices haven't always been popular (the introduction of the Ian Rank-Broadley obverse is still hotly debated and some of the recent commemorative 50p pieces aren't to everyone's taste) but that aside, they have maintained an enviable degree of artistic integrity that has allowed our currency to remain one of the most popular amongst collectors worldwide and has ensured that, no matter what future holds, Pounds and Pence will always have a place in the numismatist's heart.
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