This year The Royal Mint revealed a series of brand new base metal UK £5 coins featuring an intriguing range of creatures called the ‘Queen’s Beasts’.
The release soon captured collector’s attention as the use of a bullion coin design on a base metal coin was unprecedented.
However, the choice of designs is equally fascinating and I decided to explore the history of these beasts and find out exactly why they were chosen to feature on our new £5 coins.
Why “The Queen’s Beasts”?
Over 400 years ago Henry VIII commissioned the sculpting of 10 heraldic animal statues. They were produced to represent the ancestry of King Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour. These became known as “The King’s Beasts” and can still be seen to this day, guarding the main entrance to Hampton Court Palace.
In 1952, in preparation for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, sculptor Sir James Woodford was tasked to create ten new statues, similar to “The King’s Beasts” but more suited to the Queen. Woodford was instructed not to produce exact replicas to those at Hampton Court Palace as some of them would have had little connection with Her Majesty’s own family or ancestry.
As the Queen arrived for her coronation at Westminster Abbey, she was greeted by 10 six-foot tall beasts each representing a different part of her genealogy and thus “The Queen’s Beasts” were born.
The 10 beasts were made up of ‘The Lion of England’, ‘The White Greyhound of Richmond’, ‘The Yale of Beaufort’, ‘The Red Dragon of Wales’, ‘The White Horse of Hanover’, ‘The White Lion of Mortimer’, ‘The Unicorn of Scotland’, ‘The Griffin of Edward III’, ‘The Black Bull of Clarence’ and ‘The Falcon of the Plantagenets’.
After the coronation, the beasts were offered to Canada as a gift. The Canadian government accepted and the beasts can still be seen today on display in the Canadian Museum of History.
The Queen’s Beasts in modern culture
Still to this day, the Queen’s Beasts play a hugely important part in British culture, in particular The Lion of England and The Unicorn of Scotland.
For example, they feature in the logos of some of our country’s most famous and important institutions, most notably The Royal Arms, 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
Now that you know about the history of these heraldic creatures, take a look around and you’ll be surprised how often you see them being used in everyday life.
2018 Red Dragon of Wales CERTIFIED BU £5 coin
The 2018 Red Dragon of Wales £5 coin has been struck to a superior Brilliant Uncirculated condition, ensuring it is perfect for you to add to your collection. It will also come protectively encapsulated in official Change Checker packaging to preserve for generations to come.
2017 marks 200 years since the death of Jane Austen – one of the best-loved English novelists of all time. And to celebrate such an inspirational female figure, both The Royal Mint and the Bank of England have chosen to honour her on a brand new coin and banknote this year.
People power wins
Back in May 2013, a petition to ‘keep a woman on English banknotes’ gained momentum. Over 35,000 people signed the petition after it was announced that Winston Churchill would replace social reformer Elizabeth Fry as the face of the £5 note in 2016. At the time this meant that other than the Queen, there would be no women featuring on English banknotes.
However, it seems that people power has won as Jane Austen will soon become the new face of the polymer £10 note later on this year, replacing Charles Darwin.
It is thought that Jane Austen was already part of the Bank’s plans for the next new note as in a statement the Bank said it was “never the Bank’s intention” that none of the four characters on banknotes would be a woman.
The Bank of England have featured characters on their banknotes since 1970 to celebrate individuals that have shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society.
Jane Austen will become the 17th historical figure to feature on a Bank of England note.
So not only will Jane Austen feature on the new £10 note, The Royal Mint also revealed earlier this month that she will also feature on the new 2017 £2 coin. Designed by Dominique Evans, the new £2 features a silhouette of Jane Austen with the dates 1817-2017.
The new £2 coin issued by The Royal Mint has been struck to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, one of the best-loved English novelists.
This is the first time ever that someone has featured on a circulation coin and banknote at the same time – other than the reigning monarch.
A tiny portrait of Jane Austen also appears on four of the new polymer £5 notes as a microscopic engraving produced by Specialist micro-engraver Graham Short. The collector’s items are said to be worth over £20,000 each and two of the specially produced notes have already been found in South Wales and in the Scottish Borders.
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The Rio 2016 Olympic Games are in full swing and we can hardly believe it’s been 4 years since London 2012. It’s about time we revisited the iconic UK Olympic Fifty Pence series.
Without doubt, the 29 coin series created a storm among collectors – millions rose to the challenge of collecting all 29, and for many, it marked the start of their interest in coins.
The Royal Mint estimates that as many as 75% of the Olympic 50p coins have been removed from circulation by collectors.
Do you own the rarest Olympic 50p?
Olympic 50ps have long been a favourite amongst collectors, but did you know that only 1,125,500 Football fifty pence pieces entered circulation? It’s definitely the rare one to look out for.
Although the Football 50p narrowly holds the title of the rarest sport in the series, there were still over one million of those struck for circulation. To hold the honourable title as “rare”, we must look beyond the official Royal Mint circulation figures…
The withdrawn Aquatics ‘minting error’ Olympic 50p
The Aquatics 50p which we are familiar with today is actually a modified version which removed the waves passing over the swimmer’s face.
Despite the original coin being withdrawn from circulation and the design adapted – there are still a few out there.
Although the exact quantity of the original Aquatics design remains a mystery, we know it’s not unusual for these special coins to exchange hands for close to £1000… not a bad return on a 50p coin!
2009 Athletics Olympic 50p
In 2009, nine-year old Florence Jackson became the youngest person to design a coin for circulation in the UK. Her Athletics Olympic 50p design was the ultimate winner of a Blue Peter competition.
Although you may recognise this coin, you may not know that a rare version of this coin exists. When the competition winner was revealed, only 100,000 special edition Blue Peter coin packs were released with a 2009 dated coin – making it the only Olympic 50p without a 2011 date.
That makes this 2009 Athletics Olympic 50p more than twice as rare as the famous Kew Gardens 50p.
The rarest of the series
It is without doubt that the gold versions of each 50p remain the rarest of the collection.
Unfortunately for collectors, obtaining one of these is nearly impossible as only one gold version of each design was presented to the respective winning designer.
Aside from the precious metal content, their unique status and significance rank them as potentially the most valuable UK 50p coins in existence.
Is this the 30th Olympic 50p?
To the delight of many Olympic 50p collectors, this year the Royal Mint issued a special 50p to wish Team GB success for the Rio 2016 Games.
The coins obverse features a swimmer with the Team GB logo, the Olympic rings and the inscription ‘TEAM GB’. Designed by Tim Sharp, the coin has been officially endorsed by Team GB and celebrates the spirit of British Olympians – a must have for all Olympic 50p Collectors.
Click here to own the coin that will be popular with coin collectors and sports enthusiasts alike.