News & Blog

The new designs - what do we think?

Posted on Thu, 3 April 2008 by Jen Welch - General News, Coin News

So they've been unveiled, the designs that will grace the reverses of British coinage in years to come. In a bold move on the part of the Royal Mint the new coins no longer depict a complete image on each one (with the exception of the £1 coin) but instead make up a "jigsaw puzzle" with the picture that emerges when all the coins are placed together being that of the Royal Shield of Arms.

All those who were worried that the new coins would ignore our history and heritage can breathe a sigh of relief. The Royal Shield of Arms is nothing if not "historical" - and has a serious numismatic pedigree (having first appeared on the coinage of Edward III and regularly throughout history since). Those who wanted fresh and bold new designs will also be happy - there is no doubt that this ground breaking concept is innovative and contemporary, the best of both worlds then?

Well yes, and no - the concept is a superb one, very cleverly executed and in the pack we received yesterday at the press launch the coins all look stunning together, but will they work as individual numismatic pieces? Is each design strong enough to stand alone, as coins must? I'm not so sure and whilst I applaud the Royal Mint and designer Matthew Dent for their creativity I feel the jury is still out on whether these coins will be accepted into the public's hearts. Already we're hearing the voices of dissent - the fact there is no numeral on the new coins is an odd decision and rightly questioned. After all if you're a foreign visitor (or even an immigrant) and English is not your first language how will you know what denomination you're spending? And the lack of a Welsh symbol (there's no representation of Wales on the shield) is already raising a few eyebrows on that side of Offa's Dyke. The inclusion of the 1p and 2p in the overall design also crushes the hopes of those who have been campaigning for the demise of our smaller denominations and of course the argument about Britannia no longer featuring will run and run.

Do I like the coins? Yes I do, they're clean, fresh and as a "set" aesthetically pleasing, the design concept, as I said is a brilliant one. Are they classics of numismatics? On that score I'm not so sure

Philip Mussell