What are Definitive Coins?

Whilst new commemorative coins are issued each year to celebrate some of the UK’s most important anniversaries, did you know that the coins most readily found in our day-to-day change feature the same designs each year? 

These are known as the ‘definitive’ coins, and it’s actually been a whole 15 years since we last saw a change to their reverse designs! 

But, as we now enter a new era of King Charles III, it’s #AllChange for our humble definitive coins, with eight brand new designs set to be revealed this year… 

From the 1p to the £2, these coins have formed the UK’s circulating currency for over 50 years. 

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the history of UK definitive coins and what the future might bring as we look forward to the new releases coming soon! 

The UK’s Eight Definitive Coins

There are eight different coin denominations to be found in our everyday change (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2). 

Their story began in 1971, when Britain’s coinage went decimal – a plan which had been in the making for over 10 years! 

Originally, only the 1p-50p coins were released and each featured the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin on the obverse. Their reverse designs had been created by Christopher Ironside, for which he won an OBE. 

Christopher Ironside Decimal Designs 
Credit: The Royal Mint
Christopher Ironside Decimal Designs
Credit: The Royal Mint

Whilst the Queen’s portrait has changed on these coins throughout the years (Raphael Maklouf in 1985, Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS in 1998 with the introduction of the definitive £2 coin and Jody Clark in 2015), it wasn’t until 2008 that the reverse designs all changed and the first definitive £1 was introduced.  

The Royal Shield on Coins

In 2008, the new definitive coins were released. 

Competition winner, Matthew Dent had created a clever design utilising each of the denominations from 1p-50p and bringing them together like a jigsaw to form the Royal Shield – shown in its entirety on the definitive £1 coin. 

Matthew Dent's Royal Shield Definitive Designs
Matthew Dent’s Royal Shield Definitive Designs
Definitive Royal Shield £1
Definitive Royal Shield £1

At this time, the definitive £2 remained unchanged with the Technology design, first introduced in 1998. 

1998 Technology £2
1998 Technology £2

Britannia £2

The very last change we’ve seen to our definitive coins came in 2015, when the £2 reverse design was updated to the iconic Britannia design by Anthony Dufort. 

2015 Britannia £2
2015 Britannia £2

Not only this, but the obverse design for all denominations was also updated in 2015 as the last effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark graced our UK coinage. 

Jody Clark Queen Elizabeth II portrait
Jody Clark Queen Elizabeth II portrait

What’s next for UK Definitive Coins?

Usually, definitive coins are issued each year as part of the Annual Coin Set and then released into circulation based on demand. 

However, following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the introduction of King Charles III’s new coinage portrait, this year has been an exception… 

Whilst a 2023 Annual Coin Set was released, this only featured 5 commemorative designs and no definitive coins. 

2023 Annual Set reverse designs
2023 Annual Set reverse designs
2023 Annual Set King Charles III obverses
2023 Annual Set King Charles III obverses

Throughout the year, many collectors have asked us when the King Charles III definitive coins will be released and what the designs will be. 

Excitingly, it seems that the wait is almost over, as The Royal Mint announced on the 5th October 2023 that we can expect to see new definitive coin designs featuring King Charles III on the obverse very soon… 

This will be the first time that both the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ sides of coins have changed at the same time, and of course, the first time the King will feature on a UK 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and £1 coin! 

As perhaps the biggest change we’ve seen to UK coinage in decades, we’re expecting a huge collecting rush for the New UK Coinage for King Charles III and can’t wait to see the new coins when they’re released. 

Keep an eye on our social media and website as we’ll be updating you as soon as we have more information on when these exciting new coins. 

What do you think the designs will look like? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Jeff on October 17, 2023 at 9:07 pm

    Wow, I’ve looked in my email unread box and I saw the new designs and I was wondering if I could buy one of those sets of coins but I couldn’t.

  2. Phillip Finney on October 12, 2023 at 5:31 pm

    Great coin the two pound

  3. John w on October 11, 2023 at 10:20 am

    Hope they will go into general circulation, ( find them in them in your change)

  4. John on October 11, 2023 at 8:48 am

    Your history is a bit wide of the mark; the first decimal coinage included a half pence coin, and £2 coins were issued in 1986.

    • Kate on October 11, 2023 at 2:02 pm

      Hi John, the first £2 coin was indeed introduced in 1986, however the first bi-metallic £2 coin wasn’t until 1998.
      The halfpenny, threepenny and old penny did co-circulate with decimal coinage for a short time, however after a few months, they were officially taken out of circulation.
      I hope that helps, Kate

      • Jeff on October 17, 2023 at 9:10 pm

        What is a half-pence?

    • Jeff on October 17, 2023 at 9:09 pm

      Half pence coin? John, can you explain to me about that pls?

  5. Kevin Thomas on October 9, 2023 at 8:04 pm

    Hopefully a return to the original design on the first decimal coins. I never liked the ‘jigsaw’ design of the 2008 coins.

  6. Peter van Aanroy on October 9, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    Why are you showing the 2013 Ironside 50p in your illustrations of the introduction of decimal coins? Surely it should be the original Britannia 50p as issued.