Do You Want One In Your Easter Basket?

Even in a down market, there is always someone ready to capitalize on those who still have the money to afford extravagance. In Great Britain, the high-end retailer Selvridges is selling Melt’s Recession Proof Egg. Melt, the Selfidges house brand, is offering a hand-made to order chocolate egg made with a one-ounce gold bullion Britannia coin and decorated with 18-karat gold leaf.

Gold is currently $880.80 per ounce (£600.31 at the current exchange rate).

If you have a spare £1,000 ($1,467.25) and happen to be in the area of Selfridges’ Oxford Street store in London, you might want to pick up a unique easter gift.

Image courtesy of Selfridges.

Weekend Change Hunting

Needing to catch up on a number of tasks this weekend, I decided to take time out and go through my pocket change. While I like to examine my change, sometimes it is not possible. So I drop the coins in a small box and promise myself to search them later. The box was overflowing making it time to search.

First, I separate quarters. Quarters are easier to examine because of their size and the fewer errors I have found. I also fill up coin tubes so that my wife has soda money for work. While searching this small box, I found two 1976 quarter with the Drummer Boy Reverse designed by Jack Ahr. It still remains one of my favorite designs.

While searching the quarters, I found a 1992 Great Britain 10 pence coin. This coin is 24.5 mm in diameter and 1.8 mm thick with a reeded edge. A US quarter dollar is 24.26 mm and 1.75 mm thick with a reeded edge. Although the design is different, the size and the silver-like color could easily have this coin mistaken for a US quarter. My only problem is that even at the current exchange rate (it takes $2 to equal £1) the coin’s value is 20-cents leaving me 5-cents short!

Within the nickels, I was able to find a well circulated 1954-S coin. It is not worth much in its current condition, but it is nice to find a coin older than me and with the mint mark on the reverse.

When searching change, there seems to always be more to find within the little brown coins that many want to complain about and eliminate. For change searching, pennies usually yield some of the more interesting finds. Aside from the number of early Memorial reverse copper cents, I was able to find 1972-S and 1974-S cents. For someone on the east coast, finding San Francisco Mint coins in change is not usual.

Of course I found a few wheat back cents. The oldest is a well circulated 1941 cent. Two others, 1956-D and 1957, are in good to very good condition with a nice, even chocolate brown toning.

We cannot forgot our neighbors to the north. With the dollar about on par with the Canadian dollar, the prospect of making a virtual profit on finding Canadian cents induces dreams of past economic times. But this time, I found two 1979 and one 2000 cents. The 1979 cents have the modified tiara portrait, a smaller portrait from previous versions, and 3.26 grams of .980 copper. It contains 2.57 (US) cents worth of metals.

The copper-plated zinc 2000 Canadian cent, contains about one (US) cent worth of zinc.

If nothing else, it gave me a couple of hours to relax.

Royal Mint Redesigns British Coins

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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