To collect, or not to collect…the Shakespeare £2 coins!

The answer, of course, is to collect!

Seasoned collectors will know that the 2016 Shakespeare £2 coins are some of the most popular coins in circulation. This isn’t only because they celebrate the most influential literary figure in British history, but because of their intriguing designs and interesting mintage figures.

The Shakespeare £2 coins were issued in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of playwright, poet and actor, William Shakespeare. Each of the 3 coins honours a different genre of Shakespeare’s works – tragedies, comedies and histories.


The Shakespeare Tragedies £2 is inspired by Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies such as Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. The design, by John Bergdahl, features a skull from the iconic scene in Hamlet where the Prince speaks to the skull of dead court jester, Yorick, lamenting over the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. Next to the skull is a rose, representing Romeo and Juliet.

The edge inscription even reads ‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’ – the start of a well know quote from Hamlet.


This coin pays tribute to Shakespeare’s historical plays. It carries the edge inscription ‘THE HOLLOW CROWN’ and features a crown and dagger design. The crown represents the seven different kings who were titular characters in Shakespeare’s historical plays, and the sword is a symbols of the battles and wars that took place in many of these stories.


The Comedies £2 features a design of a cap and bells with a Jester’s stick, taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s most famous comedy play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It features the edge inscription ‘ALL THE WORLDS A STAGE’, a quote from As You Like It.

Did you know?

When these coins first entered circulation back in 2016, they were stocked in the tills at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Hamlet was being performed at the time.

Mintage Figures

On entering circulation in 2016, mintage figures were released, revealing the Shakespeare Comedies £2 as the rarest of the 3 coins with only 4,355,000 entering circulation. Original figures released were as follows:

  • Shakespeare Histories: 4,615,000
  • Shakespeare Tragedies: 5,995,000
  • Shakespeare Comedies: 4,355,000

However this would change 3 years later in 2019 when the mintages of the Histories £2 and the Tragedies £2 were corrected. Although the Comedies £2 remained the rarest of the 3, it turns out the mintage of the Tragedies £2 was lower than originally stated.

The corrected mintage figures for the 2016 Shakespeare £2 coins are as follows:

  • Shakespeare Histories: 5,655,000
  • Shakespeare Tragedies: 4,615,000
  • Shakespeare Comedies: 4,355,000

As you can see from the £2 mintage figure chart below, both the Comedies and Tragedies are in the top 30 rarest coins in circulation (based solely on mintage figures).

£2 Mintage Figures (updated September 2023)
£2 Mintage Figures (updated September 2023)

Do you have any Shakespeare £2 coins in your collection? Let us know in the comments!


If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:

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  1. Toby. Smith on April 12, 2024 at 12:28 pm

    I have got all three coins
    Why are the some coins really shiney


    T Smith

  2. Liz Burgoynel on April 10, 2024 at 9:43 pm

    I have a 2coin with William shakspear on it

  3. Liny on April 3, 2024 at 9:55 pm

    I have all three designs .

  4. J HARDING on March 28, 2024 at 12:02 pm

    JIM H

  5. Adrian Charlton on March 27, 2024 at 12:39 pm

    When the decimal coinage was unveiled, my opinion was that we were losing a huge amount of detail on our coinage, when comparing for example the detail on the half crown or florin against the 5p or 10p. Later, I hated the split shield introduced in 2008 across the definitive coins. What a mess that was! I now believe we have turned a corner, and thank goodness regained some style and detail on coins such as the £2. I have an example in my collection of every one issued, including those years with variants. Despite my past reservations, I do enjoy looking through my albums from time to time, it gives me pleasure. Sad or what?

  6. David Miller on March 27, 2024 at 12:37 pm

    I have a Shakespeare tragedies with the words around edge saying FOR KING AND COUNTRY is this an error coin

    • Kate on April 8, 2024 at 2:28 pm

      Hi David, it sounds like you might have the error version of this coins. The edge inscription should read “WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN”, however a small number of Shakespeare Tragedies £2 coins have the inscription “FOR KING AND COUNTRY” from the 2016 Army First World War Centenary £2 coin. This is a known minting error, however it’s always a good idea to get any error coins verified by The Royal Mint.
      Kind regards, Kate

  7. Mal G on March 27, 2024 at 10:23 am

    Can you tell me why all the Shakespeare coins are very shiny compared to other £2 coins, & don’t seem to dull?

    • Kate on March 27, 2024 at 12:25 pm

      It sounds like your ones are in good condition! These coins only entered circulation in 2016 so they’ve had less time to get worn than other commemorative £2 coins in circulation.
      Kind regards, Kate