Volume 42, Number 10, October 2005
In August the Royal Mint announced one of the biggest changes to United Kingdom Coin design since decimalisation – they have decided that an open competition, with a prize of up to £30,000, is to be held with a view to finding some new designs for the reverses of six United Kingdom circulating coins, from the penny to the fifty pence. Closing on Monday November 14 this competition gives everybody the chance to make their mark on history and from a numismatic point of view it is obviously highly significant – at some point in the next few years, probably in 2008 we are going to have a whole new look to the coins we carry every day and the effect this could have on our hobby cannot be underestimated. It is likely that the new designs will not vary terribly much from the sort of thing we’re used to – it’s unlikely that the powers that be will decide on something so radical that it has never been seen before and the Mint’s own website gives a clue to the type of thing they are looking for “there are a number of themes that you might like to consider in starting work. Looking to heraldic devices is one approach that could be adopted. Heraldry has long been used as a way of symbolising Britain and heraldic devices have quite naturally featured on British coins. You might also like to consider other ways of representing Britain which could include the flora and fauna of the country, its institutions, its geographic features or its achievements whether social, political or cultural” but whatever designs are chosen the important thing is that they will be new, they will be different and that can only be a good thing for our hobby – suddenly everyone will be talking coins again and who knows “checking your change” may well be in vogue again. We wholeheartedly welcome this news and await the new designs with interest – will we have something harkening back to the thrift of the threepence and Wren of the farthing or will we have ornate and elegant designs along the lines of the Gothic Crown and the Shield Reverse sovereign? Maybe something more modern entirely – and will Britannia feature anywhere. Whatever happens it’s going to create interest so we have to ask why stop there? If we are doing a wholesale redesign why not look at something even more radical – something along the lines of the American states Quarters programme maybe? Ambitious yes but now surely is the time to do it. Talking of timing the question must be asked as to why the change of design now? Traditionally such a wholesale change has only happened with the advent of a new monarch and there is no sign of that just yet; some have said the decision has been made to allay the fears of those who campaign against the Euro, after all why spend money on re-designing our coins if we’re about to join the single currency? Others have said the opposite – that it’s a move to detach the public consciousness from our beloved “British money” paving the way for the European coinage (after all we won’t be so attached to the new designs will we!). Whether either of those viewpoints is the correct one we may never know but whether this has a political motive behind or not matters little for our hobby, what matters is that for the first time in 30 years everyone else will be talking about what we talk about – won’t that make a change! For more information about the competition visit www.royalmint.com or telephone 0845 6088111
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