SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE
Volume 35, Number 7, July 1998
WITH several commemorative issues in the pipeline,1998 is proving to be a very busy-and expensive-year for collectors of British coins. First of all, there is the double celebration connected with the European Community. Not only does 1998 mark our six-month Presidency of the European Union, but it also marks the 25th anniversary of Britain's entry into what was then the European Economic Community. As the first of these events will culminate in an EC Summit Conference in Cardiff, just down the road from the Royal Mint, it seems appropriate to mark the occasion numismatically. The choice of a sop coin is ideal, for that was the medium used for Britain's first commemorative piece of that shape and denomination. If it was neater than the rather ungainly crown, back in 1973, it must be even neater today, bearing in mind its reduced size and weight. The coin of1973, in fact, celebrated our entry into the Common Market. David Wynne's reverse motif showed nine hands clasped, alluding to the nine member countries. Then in 1992-93 came a dual-dated coin created by Mary MiIner Dickens marking two events, the UK's six-month Presidency in 1992 and the completion of the Single European Market on January1, 1993. Both events were neatly symbolised by a constellation of 12 stars surrounded by random blocks representing the member countries. The designer of the current coin, John Mills, trained under Christopher Ironside and Arnold Machin, the artists whose talents combined to produce the first sop coin back in 1969. Previously he was responsible for the sop of1994 commemorating the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Now he has won the competition again with his exploding stars, reminiscent of celebratory fireworks. In addition to the circulating coin in cupro-nickel, there is a sterling silver proof with the stars in frosted relief against a mirror background, which comes in an edition of 25,000. As if that were not enough, however, there is also a 22 carat gold proof version limited to 1,500. This is only the third UK gold sop to be issued. It comes with a signed and numbered Certificate of Authenticity, which the Royal Mint's Senior Manager, Mel Whitter, advises clients always to keep in a very safe place. Presumably the coin itself should be taken good care of, but perhaps that goes without saying. The very latest sop to be issued this month celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Health Service, though some cynics might argue that, with waiting lists and bed shortages on the increase, there is precious little to celebrate. Perhaps the miracle is that we still have a National Health Service at all, and many might argue that it is just as valid an excuse for a coin as the 50th birthday of the Prince of Wales in November. The crown that marks that landmark in the life of Prince Charles makes a refreshing counterpoint to the rash of Diana memorial coins that continue to pour forth from the world's presses.
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