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Sunday, 18 May 2008

The new British coin designs

Most people don't seem to have heard the terrible news. The reverse (tails) is changing on all British coins except the £2 coin later this year. This does not mean that the size, shape or material of the coins will change, and the old designs are not being taken out of circulation. However, new coins are produced every year to replace those that are lost or drop out of circulation for some other reason, and these will all carry a new design.

The new design for every coin features a part of the Royal Shield, with the effect that if you line them up in the right way you can see most of the shield (see the Wikipedia article for a picture of this and more information on everything I write here)
But this seems like a novelty, and seems like a poor replacement for the coins that we already have.

The penny has the symbol of parliament, a portcullis
The twopence has the symbol for the prince of wales: ostrich feathers, a crown and the motto "ich dien" (I have a feeling it means "I serve" but I'm too lazy to look it up)
The five pence has a scottish thistle
The ten pence has an english lion
The twenty pence has the rose (used after the war of the roses; you know, the one combining the white rose and the red rose of the opposing sides in the war...)
The fifty pence has Britannia, who has been on our coins for at least 3 or 4 centuries, and after whom songs are still sung
The pound has a big variety of designs, with different ones each year. It works like this: the countries take it in turns to have a design for them i.e. the UK then Scotland then Wales then Northern Ireland then England then back to the UK. Something I have only noticed today is that the designs are themed for each cycle of designs. So the first two cycles had national plants, the third and fourth cycles had symbols like the welsh dragon and the northern irish celtic cross, and the fifth cycle (ending in 2008) had bridges.

So we are exchanging around twenty symbols for a single one. And the one we get to keep is the £2 coin, which is some kind of abstract pattern that's meant to represent innovation or something equally modern and meaningless.

If this only lasts one cycle (five years) then I won't mind, and the gimmick will have run its course, but I really hope we go back to the old ones at some point. However, the royal mint has given no indication that it will go back.

Is my inner numismatist (coin collector) coming out in this indignation? I find myself checking my coins for rare dates and good condition so I can hide them away, as I used to when I took my coin collecting more seriously. Do you care? Even if you don't, have a think now and fill out my poll on the left - which coin design will you miss the most?


Rachel said...

"Ich dien" does mean "I serve", though I'm skeptical about the application of this to the Prince of Wales, I have to say.

The worst thing about the £2 coins is that the sequence of gears, meant to represent industry, contains 19 of them in a circuit - which would of course jam immediately.

I'm going to have a think about the coin designs before I vote on them, I think.

fubarite said...

Fun fact - the Black Prince nicked the motto from the blind King of Bohemia against whom he fought in the battle of Crecy. Needless to say, he didn't survive, but the prince was so impressed with his bravery that he took his motto. So now you know.

I am not too bothered about the new design since it's hardly as if we're going to be lacking in the old ones. I'll be quite surprised if we don't succumb to the lure of the Euro before too long anyway (although it probably won't be before the next Labour government, unless the Tories have a radical change of heart or something excitingly financial happens), so they may not even be around long enough to outnumber the old designs.

roz said...

oh, john - i'm actually quite sad about this. and i never really care all that much about coins (sorry dude). oh. i feel like we're losing a little teeny bit of britishness - first we get shunned in eurovision and now this... sadness...

hope you're smiley though.