Volume 60, Number 6, June 2023
Missing out ONE of the consequences of any big event these days is the plethora of souvenir memorabilia that accompanies it. From mugs to tea-towels, from postcards to silly hats and, of course, coins. Royal events, such as the recent Coronation, have been magnets for such memorabilia since Queen Victoria’s day with her Golden and Diamond Jubilees giving rise to thousands of medals, teacups, plates et al. There were no coins per se except the new “Jubilee head” design for the obverse of the silver and gold, no crowns or sets, they were to come later—the first special edition being the “Rocking Horse” Jubilee Crown of 1935 to celebrate King George V’s 25 years on the throne. Apart from a one-year striking of the sovereign in 1937, King George VI didn’t have any special issues to mark a Royal occasion (there was the Festival of Britain Crown but that doesn’t count in this case!) but Queen Elizabeth II famously did—the Coronation Crown (followed by the British Exhibition Crown, but again that doesn’t count here) and Silver Jubilee Crowns marked traditional Royal events, but soon other Royal milestones were being marked too—the Royal Silver Wedding, the Queen Mother’s 80th Birthday, Charles & Diana marrying and so on. With the change of denomination to £5, the Crown was firmly established as the go-to coin for Royal celebrations and anniversaries (and others, too, of course) and soon Royal commemoratives became big business. Every single possible occasion was marked, from births to birthdays, from weddings to jubilees, from memorials to anniversaries. And it wasn’t just the £5 crown that was used as a Royal commemorative, with both the 50p and the Sovereign getting in on the act recently too! There were 50 pence coins struck for the Platinum Jubilee (two versions) and for the accession of King Charles, and there were special sovereign designs in 2002, 2012 and 2022 for the Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees (with another design in 2016 to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday) and a new reverse for 2023 for the Coronation of the new King. However, it isn’t only the reverse designs that have changed—occasionally the standard Pistrucci reverse has been used alongside a privy mark to denote a special occasion. In 2018, for example, St George and the Dragon were joined by a “65” to mark 65 years since the Coronation of Elizabeth in 1953. In addition to all of these there has also been a trend, since 2012, to offer special editions of coins that were “struck on the day”, whatever that day might be—June 2, 2012, for the Diamond Jubilee; July 22, 2013, for the birth of Prince George; June 11, 2016, for the 90th birthday of Her Majesty and so on. Some, but by no means all, have privy marks, some are matt and/or have a plain edge to differentiate them from the standard sovereign of that year but others only have packaging to show that they are in any way special. This trend for “struck on the day” coins continued with the Coronation on May 6, and I am sure it won’t be long before those lucky enough to secure one of those rare coins (there are only 1,250 and all sold out within minutes of being offered) will be showing them off at coin clubs, online etc. However, I am also sure that a number of those coins will very quickly appear at auction and on dealers’ lists as they are sold on by the original buyer for sums far larger than the £1,295 originally asked. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, we are in a free-market economy, but it begs the question . . . how many of these coins (or any limited mintage special editions) are being bought by genuine collectors who will cherish them in the long term and how many are being bought by those just looking to make a quick buck? It isn’t just in numismatics that such things happen. In any hobby where reasonable sums of money change hands there will always be those who seek to make a profit, knowing that genuine collectors will do all they can to secure something they need to fill a gap but, nevertheless, it irks me. Am I being oversensitive here? After all, most of us will, in time, sell off our collections and hope to make some kind of profit, and all these buyers are doing is making that money quicker than we might, but for some reason I feel that genuine collectors, those who see the coins for more than what they can be sold on for in the short term, should somehow be given priority. It’s a pipedream of course, the Royal Mint, auction houses and dealers can’t be expected to police who buys what and why, nor should they—as I said it is a free-market and I would hate to see any controls really (besides, no dealers or auction houses would want to ask such questions, they quite rightly want to make a profit themselves). It’s just that I would love to see “true collectors” be able to buy things they’ll cherish and hang on to as part of a beloved collection and not have to pay through the nose for them so soon after they are released. Oh, and by the way, this little moan has got nothing to do with the fact I quite fancied one of these “struck on the day” Coronation sovereigns and missed out, I promise you. Honest!
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