For the first time in 40 years, the Royal Mint is redesigning the reverse of British circulating coins. To come up with a new design, the Royal Mint held an open competition for the new design. The goal was to find a design that would represent the country but in a “modern, fresh way.” After receiving over 4,000 entries, a novel design based on the Royal Arms was chosen to appear on all six circulating coins.

Said to be “firmly rooted in the heraldic traditions of the British coinage yet beautifully contemporary,” the design calls for the penny and pence coins to show a section of the Royal Arms that includes the heraldic designs that have been a part of British coinage since the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). It has been called a “jigsaw puzzle effect.” To unify the design, the £1 coin will contain a full image of the Royal Arms. To understand the effect, the image to the right of this paragraph shows the reverse of the coins laid out to show how the parts fit the whole image.

The obverse will continue to use the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Ian Rank-Broadley.

The winning design was submitted by Matthew Dent, a 26 year-old professional graphic designer. With a sense of history and artistry, Dent created the design for its symbolism and the jigsaw idea to represent the unity of the nation. Dent wrote, “I liked the idea and symbolism of using the Royal Arms, where individually the coins could focus on specific elements and when placed together they reveal the complete Royal Arms.”

Coinage design in the United Kingdom is different from here in the United States. The Royal Mint is a corporation of the crown, meaning it is owned by the monarch and subject to the Queen’s decrees. Royal Mint management decided to redesign the coins with the approval of the Queen.

The competition was managed by The Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC). Established by King George V in 1922 to raise the quality of the coinage, the RMAC fulfills the same role as the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Committee of Fine Arts does in the United States. However, unlike the US, the RMAC has authority to recommend themes and other design elements. In the US, themes and design elements are part of the law passed by congress and signed by the president.

Once the design was selected, the recommendation was sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his capacity as Master of the Mint. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would be equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury here in the US. Following the approval by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the design was delivered to Queen Elizabeth for royal approval.

The Royal Mint is working on preparing dies and producing coins for both the collector and circulation by the Bank of England. Circulating coins are expected to reach the public by the summer. When they are released, old coins will continue to circulate along side the new coins.

A video produced by the Royal Mint discusses the new design, the competition, and has an interview with Matthew Dent.

The design is a phenomenal idea. I was impressed with the concept as soon as I saw it on the Royal Mint’s website. Since the Royal Mint will be attending the World’s Fair of Money® this July in Baltimore, I look forward to seeing the sets in person.

Image courtesy of the Royal Mint.

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