New look for 2008!
Volume 45, Number 1, January 2008
Out with the old . . . THE Royal Mint has recently unveiled the 2008 year sets. Every year, in the run up to Christmas, the Royal Mint sends their Coin Club Members details of the latest products for the forthcoming year, often the first chance most collectors get to see what reverses will grace our coinage in the next 12 months. This year the Proof sets contain not one but two striking new £5 crowns, a £2 coin celebrating the centenary of London’s first Olympic Games and, now that the “bridge series” of £1 coins has come to an end, a £1 coin bearing the original Royal Arms design that first appeared 25 years ago. On the surface nothing out of the ordinary—very pleasant, well designed coins that will appeal to any new issue collector and that will, we are sure, be given as presents to mark weddings, births, retirements and other milestones of 2008. However, it is worth noting that this year’s set is actually a little different—and has the sort of appeal that makes those not hitherto interested in the “modern stuff” sit up and take notice. The first item of note is the rather striking portrait of Prince Charles that graces the £5 crown struck to celebrate his 60th birthday. This is the first time the Prince has appeared alone on a British coin (he appeared with Diana on the Wedding crown of 1981) and there can be no hiding the fact that this is a very regal and realistic “coinage like” effigy. Is this the first time we get to see the portrait (or something very similar) that will be used on British Coinage at some time in the future? Admittedly the fact that he is shown facing right, the same way as Her Majesty the Queen appears on the obverse, indicates that this has not been rendered with the future obverses in mind (tradition has it that the monarch’s effigy faces the opposite direction to its predecessor) but the observer can’t help but make the connection, such is the style of the crown. The next item worthy of note is the other £5 crown, depicting the “Armada” portrait of Elizabeth I to mark the 450th anniversary of her accession. This is the first time a long dead member of the Royal Family has been remembered in this way and only the third time, after Churchill and Nelson, that someone not an immediate member of the Royal family (or a recently deceased Royal in the case of the Queen Mother and the Princess of Wales). Yes, we had the commemoration of the Victorian era crown in 2001 but this, bearing such a striking portrait of Elizabeth, is somewhat different and puts the emphasis firmly on the person rather than the "era" as before. The possibilities are, of course, endless if this is the route the Royal Mint are to take but it would be interesting to see how well a crown depicting Henry VIII or George III would be received. Next comes the £2 coin commemorating the centenary of London’s first Olympiad — with 2012 just around the corner is this the first in an Olympic series? Watch this space for more details! However, by far and away the most interesting thing about the New Year sets, both Proof (which contain the £5 crowns) and BU (which don’t), is the potential that these could, theoretically at least, be the only way for collectors to own 2008 coins bearing the “old” reverses. As most of you will know in April the Mint will unveil the long-awaited new designs, the culmination of an exciting ongoing project. These designs, which are known only to a select few, will in time replace all the old style designs brought in with decimalisation - the Portcullis of the 1p, the lion of the 10p, Britannia of the 50p et al will soon make way for the designs unveiled in a few months time, so what, we wonder, will be the designs on the coins that surface in our change later in the year? The official Royal Mint line is that, as always, coins will be produced and issued depending on the demand from the banks, post offices etc., but we all know that current year coins only really begin to be found in change toward the end of the year—so does that mean the mint will still be minting and issuing coins bearing the old designs even after the new ones are available? Seems unlikely, but if not then that means coins issued to meet “demand” will all be those featuring the new designs which, in turn, means that these sets will be the only way collectors can get hold of 2008 dated coins with the old reverses! Now we must stress this is conjecture, there may well be millions of coins bearing the old reverses and the 2008 date in circulation in years to come, but then again there might not, as always only time will tell. You could, of course, just buy a set because it contains some nice coins and, if rarity does become a factor and add to the value in later years, then treat it as a bonus. Come to think of it shouldn’t we be buying all our coins that way . . . ?!
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