Coin News

Volume 55, Number 4, April 2018

The Great British Coin Hunt Begins

Volume 55, Number 4, April 2018

“T” is for Tea O IS for Oak, K is King Arthur, E is English Breakfast and N stands for the NHS. What am I talking about you ask? Well some of you will have guessed that I am referring to the latest coin programme from the Royal Mint called “The Great British Coin Hunt”—a series of 26 10 pence coins each featuring a letter of the alphabet which, in turn, stands for something that “makes Britain Great” be it B for Bond, James Bond, D for Double Decker Bus, or Z for Zebra Crossing (not entirely sure about Q for Queue—is our ability to queue really something that makes us great? Maybe). The fact that the Royal Mint has launched this programme is huge for the hobby, and actually very important for the country and our view of money; I am certain that if it hadn’t been for storm Emma and the red weather warnings on the day of the launch it would have received far more press coverage than it did. Why is it so important? Well a number of reasons – firstly this is the first time ten pence coins have been used in this way —we are used to having different reverses for the 50p and £2 coin and of course the old round £1 had a plethora of different designs over the years, but the 10p has never been adorned with more than a lion or part of the Shield of Arms, this marks a radical departure from that. Secondly these designs aren’t there to commemorate anything, they aren’t there for an anniversary or to mark an occasion they are simply there, for fun, they aren’t saying anything other than “hey look at us we are different, aren’t we interesting?” and thirdly, linked to that, this is an absolute out and out attempt by the Royal Mint to get people hunting for coins (the clue is in the name of the programme the “Great British Coin Hunt”). These aren’t just pretty designs, these are designs that are supposed to be sought out, they are being minted to find, they are there to encourage collecting, to get people to actually start looking at their change again. It could be argued that the Olympic 50p series and more recently the Beatrix Potter coins were designed to be collected but the Mint will tell you that’s just a happy “extra” side effect of the programmes and that the real purpose of the coins was to mark the Olympic Games and the 150th birthday of Miss Potter. If people want to collect them than so be it (the fact that the Mint produced more Beatrix Potter coins in 2017, a year after the anniversary and still more this year, may stretch that point a little). Now though the Royal Mint has happily come out and said that they are minting coins solely for collectors; coins that are supposed to be hunted for, they have even created an app to record your collection and facilitate swaps with those that might have what you are looking for. The Royal Mint has always known, of course, that people collect coins and indeed have always produced collector versions of circulating coins just for us numismatists, but never before have they issued a circulating series purely with the intention that it be collected, and collected by everybody. That said, I am not expecting that the programme will be to everybody’s taste, and undoubtedly there will be some who turn their noses up at such blatant commercialism, those who believe that coins that are produced solely for collecting are somehow not as “pure” or as “special” as those that grace our trays and cabinets, and they are entitled to that opinion. Others will feel that the subject matter, or the designs themselves, aren’t fitting for our coins of the realm—coins that have, by and large, either been heraldic or commemorative, and they too are entitled to their opinion. Personally, whilst I may not rave about every design in the 26 (I love the S for Stonehenge, am less taken with the “X marks the spot”—I think it represents our seafaring past but it speaks to me of pirates—and I’m not sure that we should be celebrating them!) I do think it is a fantastic chance to bring the fun of coin collecting to a wider audience and I very much look forward to seeing the results of that! One other thing worthy of note with these new coins—they aren’t denominated on the reverse, that area is left solely to the design. As with the Beatrix Potter 50p pieces (and certain other 50 pences, notably Kew Gardens, WWF, Girl Guides, Benjamin Britton and the Commonwealth Games) the denomination appears on the obverse next to Her Majesty. I wonder if this will be a hint for future collectors—that those coins with the value on the obverse were produced with the collector market in mind whilst those which show the denomination on the reverse are for more general circulation? I would so love that to be true but the presence of the denomination on the Olympic 50p reverses rather scuppers that idea—shame really, it would have made life so much easier in the future!

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