Coin News

Volume 61, Number 2, February 2024

Gothic Florins

Volume 61, Number 2, February 2024

Into the future WE are, by now, all used to “innovation” in minting. Long gone are the days when a simple metal blank was stamped with a design and a collectable coin was produced. In the 21st century, designers and mints don’t simply strike coins, they create them and we have, in recent years, had coloured coins, 3D coins, different shapes, different metals (or not metal at all, regular readers will remember the Wedgwood coin we offered as a competition prize a couple of years ago), coins that come apart, coins that join together with other coins, coins that have crystals in them or that feature holograms or QR codes. These aren’t the coins we spend, of course, they are purely for the collector and there’s a huge market for them. Not all are bought by numismatists though: many purchasers will have no interest in the item as a coin but rather because it features a subject matter close to their hearts or they find the piece aesthetically appealing—and that’s OK, why should mints and marketing companies just concentrate on those who collect coins as coins and miss out on sales elsewhere? As long as people keep buying these things, then the mints will keep making them. Whilst collectors of older coins will have no time for, or interest in, such innovation, collectors of new issues should take note. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever want to add such weird and wonderful items to your collection in the future, you may find you don’t actually get a choice. As technology becomes more advanced so counterfeiting coins becomes easier, and cheaper, and so the mints must keep ahead of the game. The innovations that are giving so many coins that “wow factor” and are opening up new non-numismatic markets today are the same innovations that are likely to turn up as anti-counterfeiting measures in the future, and as what was once seen as cutting edge fast becomes mainstream so it will soon find itself on our coins as a matter of course. Latent images, the “holograms” that first appeared on £2 coins a couple of decades ago are now commonplace, micro-lettering features on our new £1 coin (with the 12 sides also helping to combat the forgers). bi-metallic coins are no longer seen as innovations at all. The reason I bring this up here is in response to a recent Royal Mint survey, sent to some of their customers and asking questions about the gold sovereign and its future. The Mint was, at this stage, simply asking for feedback and there is no suggestion that they are actively seeking to change the look of the 207-year-old coin, but it was interesting to note their thinking. Respondents were asked, amongst other things (the survey wasn’t just about the coin’s design), whether or not they wanted future sovereigns to follow the £1 in having 12 sides; whether they wanted to see micro-lettering incorporated into the design, whether they wanted some kind of “wavy line” surface animation and so on. Whilst the survey spoke only of the proof sovereign, one assumes that if the responses were favourable at least some of the features mentioned would trickle down to the bullion coin too—after all, I can’t see a time when we have a 12-sided proof sovereign with a round bullion version! As I say, there was no immediate indication that the sovereign design will change any time soon, but you only have to look at the Britannia and other precious metal coins, like the Queen’s Beasts, to realise that changes to the sovereign may well be on the horizon at some point. Purists will, inevitably, be up in arms at such a suggestion. The sovereign is, after all, the most iconic of coins and to mess with it does seem almost sacrilegious, but then again we are living in an age where minting machinery, tooling, die cutting equipment et al are far easier to access than they ever used to be; with computers that can get designs absolutely spot on, with none of the human error of the past, it is inevitable that the simplicity of the sovereign, the very thing that makes it so popular, must have caught the eye of the counterfeiters. So, whilst we may want our coins to stay free of the “gimmicks” that so many mints are trialling, we must remember that often those gimmicks are there to help collectors rather than simply as marketing ploys. After all, even the purists would, I suggest, rather have a few innovative features on their sovereigns than find they have spent hundreds of pounds on a fake. I know I would!

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