Makeover for Queen’s coin portrait

Published: Friday 27th February 2015 by The News Editor

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A new portrait of the Queen to appear on coins will be unveiled next week, before the new effigy starts to show up on the money in people’s wallets and pockets up and down the country later this year.

The effigy is only the fifth definitive coin portrait to have been created during the Queen’s reign, making it a significant step for the nation’s coins.

The new portrait and its designer will be announced on Monday at a ceremony in London and it will begin to appear on UK coins from then onwards, the Royal Mint has said.

It may take a short time for the coins to begin to filter through into people’s change as new coins tend to be delivered to cash centres and banks in the first instance.

The portrait has been chosen by a closed competition commissioned by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, whereby several people were invited to submit designs under anonymous cover, before a winner was selected by the committee.

The Royal Mint announced the date of the unveiling of the new portrait in January, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Nottingham-born sculptor Mary Gillick, who was the first artist to capture the Queen’s portrait for the nation’s coins.

Issued in 1953, the Gillick portrait depicted the Queen wearing a wreath of laurel, rather than the crown that we are used to seeing today. The portrait, which is still struck on Maundy Money, was considered to reflect the country’s optimism as it greeted a new monarch in the post-Second World War era.

The most recent portrait of the Queen on coins has been appearing since 1998. It was created by Surrey-born artist Ian Rank-Broadley, whose aim was that the portrait should be a recognisable one of the Queen and not “over-idealised”.

While artists’ interpretations of the Queen’s image have changed over time, one tradition which has remained constant is that the Queen has continued to be depicted facing right. This is in accordance with a tradition that can be traced back to the 17th century, whereby successive monarchs face alternate directions on coins.

According to the Royal Mint Museum, some people believe that this tradition could originate from the desire of Charles II to turn his back on Oliver Cromwell, although the museum suggests that this may be too convenient an explanation and it may be better to concede that if any reason has existed for this, it has long since been forgotten.

The museum said that even during the long reign of Queen Victoria there were no more than five portraits of the monarch on coins, one of which enjoyed such royal favour that it was used for some 50 years.

Adam Lawrence, chief executive of the Royal Mint, said: “This change of royal portrait will make 2015 a vintage year for UK coins, and it will be hugely exciting for us all to see how the new design appears on the coins we use every day.”

There were estimated to be around 28.9 billion UK coins in circulation at March 31 last year, with a total face value of more than £4 billion. They were all manufactured by the Royal Mint, which has a history of more than 1,000 years of producing British coinage.

The Mint said that existing coins which are in current use will remain in general circulation until they are naturally recycled due to wear and tear, usually when they are around 20 to 25 years old, and their use will not be affected by the new portrait.

Graham Dyer, senior research curator at the Royal Mint Museum, said: “I remember very well the revealing of the Gillick effigy for Queen Elizabeth’s coins in the newspaper in late 1952; the photograph caught my eye and I can remember my reaction to it quite clearly.

“The Queen’s portrait looked beautiful – radiant was the usual description of the Queen at that time – and it looked so entirely right, so charming.”

Published: Friday 27th February 2015 by The News Editor

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