A Coin for Brexit
Volume 55, Number 7, July 2018
A coin for Brexit? AS we go to press we learn of a call from some MPs for the Royal Mint to strike a “Brexit” coin to commemorate our leaving the European Union next year (this assuming we do, let’s not get into that right now…). Following what is being called by some as a “demand” for the coin, it is understood that the ExchequerSecretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, has signalled that there could be an argument for the coin and that it could be used to “commemorate the next chapter in our national story”. Now without getting into the argument about Brexit itself, Lord knows it is divisive enough at the best of times without bringing that debate into numismatics, is there really a case for the coin? And if there is what might it feature? That politics has featured on coins in the past cannot be denied and we can go back to the Romans and on through history if we want to find examples, however, if we stick solely to the reign of our present Queen we can see plenty of instances on our modern decimal coins, both circulating and commemorative. As far back as 1973 our accession to the EEC (as it was then) was celebrated by the minting of the “hands” 50p piece. Eighty nine million of these distinctive coins were produced and they became instantly popular, with school children across the land insisting they were worth more than their Britannia counterparts. Nineteen years later another European 50p was minted this time to celebrate our presidency of the EC (as it was now known) and whilst that coin didn’t quite capture the imagination like the “hands” one did it was produced in very limited numbers and remains the lowest mintage of any 50p to date—almost half the number of Kew Gardens pieces, a coin that has become almost an icon for “rare” modern coin collectors. In 1998 we celebrated our presidency of the (now) EU and the 25th anniversary of our joining the organisation with yet another 50p and then in 2004 a commemorative crown was issued for the centenary of the Entente Cordial. Not to be out done our own domestic union got a coin too with the tercentenary of the Act of Union in 1707 being celebrated on a 2007 £2 coin. So politics and political treaties and unions have all featured on coins in the past so one might consider that precedence for a Brexit coin, but those coins all celebrated the joining, or continued membership of, a union not the leaving of one, so is there precedence at all? Let us assume, for just a second, that the leaving of a union has as much right to be celebrated in metal as the joining of one—what then might appear on such a coin? Britannia would seem to be a favourite, she is after all quintessentially British (although rather ironically she was first used by the Romans, and one might ask whether is it fitting to use the symbol of one European “Empire” when leaving another!) and has appeared on coins for centuries, indeed when she failed to appear on our new coins in 2008 there was something of an outcry. The problem with Britannia, of course, is that she DOES still appear on coins, just not regularly on circulating ones, the Royal Mint produces the Britannia bullion coins every year so were she to appear on a new coin it might prove confusing, especially if that coin were a £5 crown. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were a circulating coin but the most obvious choice for that would be the 50p and she’s already on a great number of those produced before 2008 so it wouldn’t necessarily feel very special; even a £2 coin wouldn’t work as she appeared on that in 2015. So, if not Britannia then what? What should go on a coin to mark such a momentous occasion, bearing in mind said occasion is going to annoy almost as many people as it pleases? One would assume the theme chosen would be heraldic, something in keeping with the existing coins, but the trouble there is most classically British heraldic themes have been used. Even non-heraldic themes such as monuments, buildings and geography have appeared on Royal Mint coins (usually crowns) at some point (think of the Olympic celebration of Britain series and more recently the Portrait of Britain series) and now with the new 10p coins issued earlier this year all those other things that are quintessentially “British” are covered too. So what should go on the coin? What would you put on it? Of course, it is possible that such a coin will never happen, it might be far too divisive for the Royal Mint to even consider but, just for fun (and I can’t emphasise that enough, we really don’t want to spark a political debate here) why not let us know what you would choose. Whether you’re a “Brexiteer”or a “remainer” let us know what you think should feature on a commemorative or a circulating coin (and, perhaps which it should be)—you can even send us your actual designs if you like, we would love to print some. Just make sure they aren’t too controversial please!
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