Discovering the UK’s Definitive Coin Designs

We’re celebrating the unsung heroes of the coin collecting world by taking a deep dive into the UK’s definitive coin designs.

From the 1p to the £2 coin, find out all you need to know about the definitive coins that have been issued over the last 51 years…

£2

1997-2015: History of Technology £2
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 1997 a new type of £2 coin was introduced which featured an innovative bi-metallic design and was the first in the history of British coinage.

Previously, £2 coins had been issued as commemoratives only and featured a single metal design.

The reverse of the new bi-metallic coin shows Bruce Rushin’s representation of mankind’s technological evolution from the Iron Age. The concentric circles each denote a different technological milestone, including the Industrial Revolution, the computer age and the age of the Internet.

The obverse features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley.

2015 – Present: Britannia £2
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 2015, the “History of Technology” design, which featured on the £2 coin since 1997, was replaced by the introduction of an iconic Britannia design by Anthony Dufort.

Britannia first appeared on British coins in 1672 and subsequently featured on a British coin in one way or another for more than 300 years. In 2008 she was surprisingly dropped from the 50 pence piece despite a Daily Mail campaign to save her, and so her appearance on the definitive £2 coins in 2015 was a triumphant return.

The obverse features Jody Clark’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which is the 5th portrait of Her Majesty to appear on a coin.

So far there have only been issues of this coin in 2015 and again in 2016, however just 650,000 Britannia £2s were issued in 2015, making it the joint 3rd rarest £2 in circulation.


£1

2008-2016: Royal Arms
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

The first UK £1 coin was issued in 1983 to replace the £1 banknote, which was only lasting a few months in circulation.

It was struck from Nickel-brass, making it yellow in colour, and it was much thicker than the other coins in our change.

£1 coins were initially issued in recurring five year programmes including series of designs representing the UK and the home nations.

It wasn’t until 2008 that the first official definitive £1 coin was issued.

The reverse design was created by Matthew Dent, who won a public competition to redesign the UK’s definitive coinage.

His concept was based on the Royal Shield of Arms and this £1 coin features the complete shield – representing the United Kingdom as a whole.

The obverse design featured the 4th portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, by Raphael Maklouf until 2015, when this was replaced by Jody Clark’s design.

2016 – Present: Nations of the Crown
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

To combat counterfeiting, a new bi-metallic, 12-sided £1 coin was introduced in March 2017.

Billed as the most secure circulating coin in the world, the new £1 coin was designed by 15-year-old David Pearce following a public competition in 2015.

The new design is made up of the English rose, the Welsh leek, the Scottish thistle and the Northern Irish shamrock emerging from one stem within a royal coronet to represent the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom.

The obverse features the 5th portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark.


50p

1969-1981: Britannia 50 New Pence
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

October 1969 saw the entrance of the 50 New Pence coin into circulation and its revolutionary heptagonal shape was the first of its kind.

Its reverse design, by Christopher Ironside remained traditional however, featuring the familiar and iconic image of Britannia.

Arnold Machin’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II features on the obverse and this was the second portrait of Her Majesty to appear on a coin.

1982-1997: Britannia 50 Pence
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 1982 the UK’s definitive coin designs were updated, as they were no longer considered ‘new’.

The lettering of this 50p differs from its predecessor, changing from ’New Pence’ to ‘Fifty Pence’.

The 1982-1997 50p features Christopher Ironside’s image of Britannia, the allegorical female figure that symbolizes Britain on the reverse.

Raphael Maklouf’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse of this 50 pence is the third to appear on a coin.

1997-2008: Britannia Fifty Pence
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In October 1994, the Government reviewed the United Kingdom coinage and a requirement for a smaller 50 pence coin was revealed.

On 1st September 1997 a 27.3mm diameter 50 pence was issued; a 2.7mm reduction from the previous 50 pence.

The traditional image of Britannia remained on the reverse, designed by Christopher Ironside, as did the obverse portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, by Raphael Maklouf.

2008 – Present: 50p Royal Arms
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 2008, the UK’s previous definitive coin designs were replaced by Matthew Dent’s winning competition entry which saw all the definitive coins form a complete image of the Royal Shield of Arms when pieced together.

The 50p coin design completes the lower section of the Royal Shield and features the denomination in the lower segment.

In 2015, the obverse design was changed to feature the 5th portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark, replacing Ian Rank-Broadley’s portrait.

This design was issued every year from 2008 to present, excluding 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2016.

The rarest Royal Shield 50p was issued in 2017 and has a mintage of 1,800,000 – making it the second rarest 50p in circulation. Mintage figures for 2018 and 2019 coins have not yet been revealed.


20p

1982-2008: The Royal Badge of England
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

Introduced into circulation in June 1982, the 20 pence coin was giving the same curved heptagonal shape as the 50p but is much smaller, measuring at 21.4mm in diameter.

The reverse design of the Royal Badge of England was designed by William Gardiner and it features a royally crowned double rose in between the dated year.

From 1982 the obverse features the design of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin. This changed to Raphael Maklouf’s 3rd portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1985 and Ian Rank-Broadley’s 4th portrait in 1998.

This 20p was issued annually between 1982 and 2008, excluding 1986 and 2017 in which there was low demand.

2008 – Present: 20p Royal Arms
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

A new design for the 20p was introduced in 2008 as part of the re-design of UK coinage using Matthew Dent’s shield design.

When the six individual coins are placed together the designs join to form the complete image of the Royal Shield of Arms. The design of the 20p shows the far-right segment of the shield.

The 20p had previously included the date on the reverse, but the new design required the Royal Mint to produce a new die with the date on the obverse. However when the new coins were struck for circulation, the old die was accidentally used, meaning a batch was issued with no date on either side of the coin, making a very rare undated 20p error coin.

The obverse features the 4th portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley. In 2015, a 5th portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was designed by Jody Clark and the 20p obverse was updated to feature it.


10p

1968-1981: 10 New Pence
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 1968 the 10 New Pence coin entered circulation to replace the florin as part of Britain’s conversion to a system of decimal currency.

The public was uncertain about using this new coin to start with, after generations of pounds, shillings and pence, meaning the Decimal Currency Board still needed to reassure suspicious Britons to go decimal.

Featured on the reverse was Christopher Ironside’s design, incorporating part of the Crest of England; a lion passant guardant royally crowned.

The 2nd portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin is on the obverse.

1992-2008: 10 Pence (3rd portrait; small type)
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

On 30th September 1992 a reduced size version of the 10 pence coin was introduced into circulation and the older and larger version of the coin was withdrawn from circulation on 30th June 1993.

This 10 pence measured at 24.5mm, 4mm less than its predecessor.

Whilst the reverse design by Christopher Ironside, a lion passant guardian royally crowned, remained the same, the lettering changed from ‘New Pence’ to ‘Ten Pence.’

Raphael Maklouf’s portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II features on the obverse of the coin.

2008 – Present: 10p Royal Arms
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In April 2008, Mathew Dent’s competition winning design was adopted on the 10p coin.

The 10p is designed to depict the top left quarter of the Royal Shield of Arms, showing the lions passant from the Royal Banner of England.

On the obverse, HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 4th portrait, by Ian Rank-Broadley is featured.

This 10p was issued consecutively from 2008 to 2017 but HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 5th portrait by Jody Clark, only features on coins issued after 2015.


5p

1968-1981: Five New Pence
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In April 1968, 5p coins were issued as a replacement for shillings in preparation for decimalisation in 1971.

These were released into circulation at the same time as the very first 10p coins.

The reverse, by Christopher Ironside, shows The Badge of Scotland and a thistle royally crowned.

The obverse features the second crowned portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Arnold Machin.

1990-1998: Five Pence- Reduced Size
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 1987 the Government announced its intention to issue a smaller 5p coin and on 27th June 1990 the new 18.00mm 5p was introduced.

The reverse design remained the same as the previous years’, with a royally crowned Scottish thistle, designed by Christopher Ironside but the words ‘Five Pence’ were written instead of ‘New Pence’.

From 1990 to 1998 the obverse design shows Raphael Maklouf’s portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and from 1998 to 2008 the obverse design shows Ian Rank-Broadley’s portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

2008 – Present: Royal Arms
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

A new design for the 5p was introduced in 2008 as part of the re-design of UK coinage using Matthew Dent’s Royal Shield design.

The 5p coin depicts the centre of the Royal shield, showing the meeting point of the four quarters.

The obverse from 2008 to 2015 features the 4th portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley and from 2015 to present features the 5th portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark.


2p

1971-1981: Badge of the Prince of Wales – New Pence
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

On 15 February 1971, the United Kingdom adopted a new decimal currency system and the 2p was introduced into general circulation.

The reverse incorporates the wording ‘NEW’ so to avoid confusion between the old and new coinage and features the badge of the Prince of Wales, designed by Christopher Ironside.

The obverse features Arnold Machin’s portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II; her second crowned portrait to appear on a coin.

1985-1992: Badge of the Prince of Wales – Two Pence
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 1982, the reverse inscription on the 2p coin was changed from ‘NEW PENCE’ to ‘TWO PENCE’.

The reverse of the coin features the badge of the Prince of Wales with his motto ‘Ich Dien’ (I serve), designed by Christopher Ironside.

From 1982 the obverse shows the third portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II, by Raphael Maklouf. This changed in 1998 when it was replaced by Ian Rank-Broadley’s 4th portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Due to the increase in metal prices on world markets, in 1992 the composition of 2p coins was changed from bronze to copper-plated steel and as a result, they are magnetic.

2008 – Present: 2p Royal Arms
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 2008, the UK’s previous definitive coin designs were replaced by Matthew Dent’s winning competition entry which saw all the definitive coins form a complete image of the Royal Shield of Arms when pieced together.

The 2p coin design completes the upper-right section of the Royal Shield and features the denomination in the top segment.

From 2008 the obverse design featured the 4th portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley. In 2015, the obverse design was changed to feature the 5th portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark.


1p

1971-1981 Portcullis and Chains: New Penny
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

On 15 February 1971, the United Kingdom adopted a new decimal currency system and the 1p was introduced into general circulation.

The reverse of the coin, designed by Christopher Ironside, features an adaptation of the Badge of King Henry VII and his successors; a portcullis with chains royally crowned.

To separate this coin from the previous coinage, the wording ‘NEW’ was incorporated.

The obverse shows the 2nd portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II, by Arnold Machin.

1982- 2008: Portcullis and Chains: One Penny
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

The reverse inscription on the 1p coin was changed from ‘NEW PENNY’ to ‘ONE PENNY’ in 1982.

The reverse of the coin continued to feature Christopher Ironside’s portcullis with chains design.

From 1982 the obverse shows the third portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II, by Raphael Maklouf. This changed in 1998 when it was replaced by Ian Rank-Broadley’s 4th portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Due to the increase in metal prices on world markets, in 1992 the composition of 1p coins was changed from bronze to copper-plated steel and as a result, they are magnetic.

2008 – Present: 1p Royal Arms
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

Matthew Dent’s new design for the 1p was introduced in 2008 to create the Royal Shield of Arms using the UK’s definitive coins.

The 1p coin depicts the left segment of the Royal shield with the denomination in the far-left.

From 2008 the obverse features the 4th portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley. From 2015 the obverse features the 5th portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark.


½ Penny

1971-1981: St Edward’s Crown: New Penny
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

This Half Penny coin was introduced in February 1971, to coincide with decimalisation, and was worth 0.5 of a penny.

Continued production of the coin was necessary due to the fact that the old sixpence (with a decimal face value of 2.5p) remained in circulation until 1980.

The reverse of the coin was designed by Christopher Ironside, featuring St Edward’s Crown.

The obverse of the Half Penny remained the same throughout its short time in circulation. This featured the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin.

1982-1984: St Edward’s Crown: Half Penny
Discovering the UK's Definitive Coin Designs

In 1982 Christopher Ironside’s reverse design of the Half Penny was updated, as the coin was no longer considered ‘New’.

The inscription at the top of the reverse design now read ‘Half Penny’.

The obverse design by Arnold Machin remained unchanged.

As Britain’s smallest decimal coin, both in size and in value, the Half Penny unfortunately found itself becoming Britain’s least favourite coin and was demonetised and withdrawn from circulation in 1984 after just 13 years in circulation.


Now that we’re more than 10 years on since the last update of the reverse of the UK’s definitive coins, perhaps we could be due for a re-design…

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

And next time you check your change, make sure you spare a thought for the definitive coins in your pocket and the vital role they play in Britain’s numismatic history.


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6 Comments

  1. M Thompson on October 2, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Not sure why the £1 is missing?

    • Rachel Hooper on October 3, 2019 at 8:23 am

      All added in now 🙂

  2. Bill on October 2, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Excellent as always but how about the good old half penny, it was short and sweet but still part of our history and collecting

    • Rachel Hooper on October 2, 2019 at 9:05 am

      Really good point Bill! I’ll get a section added in for the half penny. Thanks, Rachel

    • Bill on October 2, 2019 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Rachel
      Thanks for the half penny info, one of my favourite sets I bought from you is the Guernsey 50p memorial flight set, any chance sometime of a short video on those, stunning set

      Bill

      • Rachel Hooper on October 3, 2019 at 8:22 am

        Hi Bill, that is a really stunning set! I think it would be quite interesting to create a video featuring sets from British Territories at some point, thanks for the suggestion.



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