2019 marks the 170th anniversary of the Florin – a coin with a fascinating history, first issued during the reign of Queen Victoria in 1849.
Whilst you certainly wouldn’t recognise it as a 10p nowadays, it was actually Britain’s very first decimalised coin, with a value one tenth of a pound.
This experiment in decimalisation didn’t take off for almost another 120 years when the 5p and 10p coins were issued, however the Florin remained in circulation until 1970 when a final edition was issued for collectors.
The Godless Florin
For hundreds of years, right up until the present day, Britain’s coinage has been diligently pious, featuring a range of different Latin inscriptions, but almost all coins feature the full text, or an abbreviation of, ‘Dei Gratia, Fidei Defensor’ – ‘by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith’.
All coins that is, except the original Florins issued in 1849…
The introduction of these Florins was met with immediate outcry from the strongly religious Victorians of the time and the coin gained the nickname ‘the Godless florin’.
It was even suggested that an outbreak of cholera that year was the act of a vengeful God, visiting death upon the British population as revenge for leaving Him off the new coin!
Queen Victoria herself even complained and coin was replaced, meaning that to this day, the 1849 Florin is one of the most infamous coin designs in British numismatic history.
The Gothic Silver Florin
In 1851, a new Florin was introduced, known as the ‘Gothic Florin’.
The coin earned its name from the distinctive Gothic-style inscription on the obverse side, surrounding the shields of the United Kingdom.
The inscription featured a combination of upper and lower-case letters and Roman Numerals to signify the date, which are both very unusual features for a British coin.
Another irregularity with the Florin was the crowned portrait of Queen Victoria, which would have been highly unusual to the public at the time, as this new denomination was the first coin to feature a crowned monarch for over 200 years.
The ‘Barmaid’s Ruin’ Florin
A second attempt to introduce decimal currency occurred in 1887 when the double Florin was issued, valued at 1/5 of a pound.
This coincided with the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, yet despite the joyful occasion, for many the coin was an unwanted addition to British currency and it did not receive a warm welcome from the public.
The real reason for its introduction is disputed, nevertheless it became Britain’s second ‘decimal’ coin, just 2mm smaller in diameter than the familiar Crown, yet worth a shilling less.
The unintended consequence was that the coin was often passed off as a Crown, with naïve barmaids apparently being the most susceptible to the deception.
It’s even been suggested that more than a few barmaids lost their livelihood on the grounds that they were losing the tavern owners money, hence the nickname ‘Barmaid’s Ruin’.
Creating the Gothic Head
The ‘Gothic Head’ featured on the Florin was first produced in 1847 by Royal Mint chief engraver, William Wyon, following the success of his ‘Young Head’ portrait.
Young Queen Victoria can be seen wearing an ornate crown, with a loose braid in her hair – the first time since the coins of Charles II that a monarch had been shown wearing a crown on British coinage.
Inspired by the revival of Gothic style throughout Victorian Britain, the new design also featured gothic style text used for the inscription .
The Gothic style influenced every aspect of Victorian life, from architecture, literature, clothing and coinage.
Even today, the gothic style can still be seen in British architecture, such as the Natural History Museum and the many Victorian churches that still stand today.
Do you have any Florins in your collection and what do you think about their gothic designs?
Own a collector’s favourite – The ‘Gothic’ Silver Florin
The Gothic Florin is a firm favourite with British coin collectors for its originality, and unique style. However, our stock of this classic coin is limited so please don’t delay your reservation!
This year the 50p celebrates 50 years since its introduction in 1969, when it was released as the first coin in the new decimal series.
In 1967, the Deputy Master of The Royal Mint approached the Decimal Currency Board to discuss the introduction of a new coin as a more economical replacement for the 10 shilling note or ’10 bob’, which was only lasting 5 months in circulation at the time, compared to the 50 year lifespan of a coin. With much difficulty and debate to decide upon the best shape, the seven sided design was finally chosen (the first of its kind) and released 2 years later.
The original reverse was designed by Christopher Ironside and featured the seated Britannia alongside a lion. This coin was issued between 1969 and 2008, after which The Royal Mint held a public competition to redesign the reverse of UK coins, with Matthew Dent’s winning shield design featuring on the reverse of definitive 50p coins since.
Vote for your favourite 50p coin!
There have been over 70 designs released on UK 50p coins over the last 50 years, and their longevity is testament to the 50 year lifespan claimed by the Deputy Master of The Royal Mint.
But with so many different 50p designs being issued, which one is your favourite?
We’ve split the coins up into the 4 categories below so that you can vote for your favourite from each before choosing an overall winner out of the top 4 shortlisted.
Click on the links below to vote for each category:
- Vote for your favourite Pre 1997 50p here >>
- Vote for your favourite Beatrix Potter here 50p >>
- Vote for your favourite Olympic 50p here >>
- Vote for your favourite Modern 50p here >>
We’ll announce the top 4 coins shortlisted and give you the chance to vote for your favourite overall 50p coin next week.
If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:
– Find and identify the coins in their pocket
– Collect and track the coins they have
– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers
Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app
Standing strong for over 1,100 years throughout Britain’s wars, political upheavals, social and economic progress and technological and scientific advances, The Royal Mint’s history can be traced back through our country’s coinage.
But it was on the 17th of December 50 years ago that The Queen herself opened the new site for The Royal Mint, which was moved to a purpose-built site in Llantrisant following 157 years at Tower Hill, London.
This was the first time since its inception that The Royal Mint had been based outside of London, and marked an incredibly important moment in the history of our coins.
The move to Llantrisant
In 1966 it was announced that Britain would adopt a new decimal currency. This meant that hundreds of millions of new coins would need striking and Tower Hill simply didn’t have enough space to cope with this demand and so the decision was made to find a new location for The Royal Mint.
Llantrisant made it onto the shortlist of the top 7 locations, and as James Callaghan (Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Mint and an MP for Cardiff) supported a move to Wales, Llantrisant was chosen for the big move.
Britain’s new Mint
The announcement was made in 1967 and construction soon began on the new site. For the Llantrisant area, the move meant more work and a regeneration of the town, as well as adding to the sense of history and tradition. It was estimated that the move would provide 10,000 jobs to South Wales.
It was in 1968 that the site was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen when she switched on the coining presses to begin production of decimal bronze coins.
Llantrisant was built to house the most advanced coining machinery in the world and have a larger capacity than any other mint in Europe, necessary to cope with the amount of new coinage needed.
When the site opened, the circulating coin presses could strike up to 200 coins per minute, however the latest generation of presses today strike around 750 coins per minute!
Decimalisation of Britain’s coins
The 15th of February 1971 is known as the day that Britain “went decimal”.
Whilst this was the official ‘Decimal Day’, three years before this, the new 5p and 10p coins were actually introduced. These coins were the same size and value as the existing one and two shilling coins to make the transition easier for the British public.
It was in 1969 that the first seven sided coin – the 50p – was introduced to replace the 10-shilling note as a more economical alternative and then finally, on Monday 15 February 1971, the transition was complete when the half penny, 1p and 2p coins were also introduced.
The new Mint at Llantrisant successfully transformed hundreds of years of everyday currency from 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound, to the new pound made from 100 new pence.
Today the Royal Mint is the market leader and the largest single supplier of plated coins and blanks in Europe. They can produce 90 million coins and blanks a week – that’s almost 5 billion coins a year!
And all this has been made possible thanks to the advanced facilities at Llantrisant, as pictured above, without which the move to decimal coinage simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Own this Historic Royal Mint anniversary DateStamp™
To mark the move of The Royal Mint to Llandistrant, you have the opportunity to own the Royal Mint in Wales 50th Anniversary DateStampTM.
Featuring the 2016 Wales £20 coin with the iconic Welsh dragon design, and postmarked 17th December 2018, exactly 50 years since The Royal Mint moved to Wales.