Portraits of our Queen – the changing face of Britain’s coinage

This year marks Her Majesty’s 95th birthday year. Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest reigning monarch, with an incredible 68 years on the throne.

The first Queen Elizabeth II coins were struck in 1953 and since then five different effigies have adorned our coins.

We asked you to vote for your favourite and portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the results are in…

Mary Gillick’s portrait of Her Majesty, the very first effigy of QEII, took 27.65% of the votes!

1953 – 1967: Mary Gillick

gillick - Portraits of a Queen - the changing face of Britain's coinage

The first coins of Queen Elizabeth’s reign bore Mary Gillick’s portrait of the young Queen, engraved especially for the new coins.

Her uncrowned portrait of the Queen is still used on the Maundy Money distributed each year by Her Majesty.

1968 – 1984: Arnold Machin RA

machin - Portraits of a Queen - the changing face of Britain's coinage

With the upcoming decimalisation, it was decided to refresh the Queen’s portrait with Arnold Machin’s new sculpture of the Queen. Commissioned in 1964, it first appeared in 1968 on the new 5p and 10p coins.  A version of the design with tiara was also introduced on stamps in 1967 and remains to this day.

1985 – 1997: Raphael Maklouf

maklouf - Portraits of a Queen - the changing face of Britain's coinage

In creating his new effigy of Her Majesty, Raphael Maklouf aimed “to create a symbol, regal and ageless”.

His “couped” portrait depicts Queen Elizabeth II wearing the royal diadem favoured by her on the way to and from the State Opening of Parliament.

1998 – 2015: Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS

irb - Portraits of a Queen - the changing face of Britain's coinage

In 1997, a new portrait of Her Majesty was designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. Created to fill the full circle of the coin, its larger size was a deliberate response to the smaller 5p and 10p coins in circulation.

A noticeably more mature portrayal of Her Majesty, Rank-Broadley aimed to show the Queen with “poise and bearing”.

2015 – Present: Jody Clark

The new “heads” side of the coin was designed by Jody Clark who at 33 was the youngest person to design a monarch’s profile on the currency.

It was the first time her portrait had been modified in 17 years and has remained on our UK coinage ever since.

This was arguably the first UK coin to introduce elements of personality with a hint of a smile. Clark is the first Royal Mint employee in over 100 years to design a UK definitive coin portrait


As Queen Elizabeth II is now one of the top five longest-reigning monarchs in the world, it’s only fitting that five of her portraits appear on our UK coinage.

Your favourite portrait will be revealed next week, so stay tune to find out if your vote won!


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Why did The Royal Mint revert to the Queen’s decimal first effigy?

2021 marks 50 years since our UK coins turned decimal, in the biggest numismatic change seen in centuries.

In celebration of this significant anniversary, The Royal Mint issued not one, but TWO Decimal Day 50ps in 2021. The reverse designs are the same, but that certainly can’t be said for their obverses…

The first version of the Decimal Day 50p, available exclusively in the 2021 Annual Coin Set, features the original Arnold Machin portrait of Her Majesty The Queen on the obverse – the same obverse used for the UK’s very first decimal coins.

However, the individual coin which was released later in January, featured Jody Clark’s fifth portrait of The Queen instead.

So why did The Royal Mint revert back to the Queen’s first decimal effigy for this new issue? Join Change Checker as we take a closer look…

Spot the Difference

The 50p available in the Annual Set which features the original Machin portrait on the obverse, quickly caught the eyes of collectors as this was the first time we have seen The Royal Mint revert a previous portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II on a base metal UK coin.

Marking 50 years since our UK coins went decimal, it seemed only fitting that this coin should include Machin’s obverse design.

But, when the Decimal Day 50p was individually released later in January, collectors had the opportunity to get their hands on a second version of this coin, as Jody Clark’s portrait of The Queen featured on the obverse.

So with two versions of the 2021 UK Decimal Day 50p out there, this coin is set to become a real talking point among collectors!

Arnold Machin Portrait

The significance of this anniversary and the fact that the Machin portrait of HM QEII was the first to be used on the UK’s 50p, makes for the perfect excuse to revert back to this previous effigy on the exclusive Decimal Day 50p within the Annual Set.

The UK’s very first decimal coins (5p, 10p, followed by 50p) actually entered circulation before 1971 and as they were circulating together with pre-decimal currency, a new portrait of The Queen was commissioned to help the new coins stand out.

Arnold Machin’s new portrait showed The Queen wearing a tiara given to The Queen by her grandmother, Queen Mary.

We love the fact that collectors have the chance to see this previous portrait reused on this brand new 50p and it certainly makes for interesting collecting!

Have you secure both versions of the 2021 Decimal Day for your collections? Let us know in the comments below!

But that’s not all, as this is not the first time we’ve seen different obverses used on the same coin…

2015 Battle of Britain 50p

In 2015, The Battle of Britain 50p shot to fame as collectors were quick to spot that there were THREE different versions of the coin, with different obverses on each of them.

The Brilliant Uncirculated 50p was issued early in 2015 and was quickly dubbed an ‘error’ coin. The coins, which were sold in presentation packs, had been struck without the denomination in either numbers or writing anywhere on the coin. Chancers were quick to play to this, with some managing to sell on the coins for near to £100 each on the secondary market.

After the controversy surrounding the coin erupted, the Royal Mint confirmed that the 50p intended for circulation later on in the year would have the ’50 PENCE’ denomination. But was this after they had realised their mistake?

So how did this coin end up with three different obverses?

Each version of this coin has caused a stir in the collecting world. Not only does this Battle of Britain 50p fail to feature a denomination on the Brilliant Uncirculated version, but the obverse is different for each finish used for the coin – a first for a UK commemorative coin.

In 2019, a brand new re-issued Brilliant Uncirculated version of the Battle of Britain 50p (from the 2019 50th Anniversary of the 50p Military Set) saw Jody Clark’s portrait and the 50 PENCE denomination – making this the FOURTH version of this 50p!

Do you have any of the Battle of Britain 50p coins? Let us know in the comments below!

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Queen Victoria – Around the World on Coins…

Cast your imagination back to the 19th centuryQueen Victoria ruled 400 million people in an empire that covered almost a quarter of the world’s surface!

With a name and title famous across the globe, it may come as a surprise to you that Queen Victoria never actually stepped foot in many of the countries she ruled over.

Map of the British Empire during Queen Victoria’s reign.

India was held with such high regard in Victoria’s heart that it became known as the Jewel in the Empire’s crown. In 1876, India awarded her the title of ‘Empress of India’ in a gesture of appreciation.

Although having never stepped foot in the country and living 4,500 miles away, Victoria’s portrait was minted on to the currency of India (the rupee) from 1840, so people could recognise their empress!

The rupee is one of the oldest currencies in the world, so to feature a British monarch for the first time was an important moment in numismatic history.

1849 Indian One Rupee. Source: Numista

The later portrait issued on rupees, similar to the Gothic Head effigy, can be considered one of the most beautiful coins of the empire.

1889 Indian One Rupee. Source: Numista.

A 22hr flight to Australia seems a long journey now but for Queen Victoria, a trip to this corner of the world would have taken her almost two months to get there!

So, there’s no surprises this was also a country that she never visited. However, the need for a British presence in the country was growing with the empire; as the empire grew, so did the need for coins. The Royal Mint opened branches in Australia and in 1855, a sovereign was minted outside of the UK for the first time – the Sydney sovereign.

1855 Sydney Sovereign. Source: Numista.

It featured a portrait of Victoria that was based on the Young Head effigy, but with a sprig of banksia weaved through Victoria’s hair, giving the portrait a distinct Australian feel.

The Sydney sovereign became incredibly successful and a number of Royal Mint branches were opened throughout Australia as a result. To identify the Mint that sovereigns were produced in, mintmarks were added to the coins, with a small ‘P’ for Perth, and an ‘M’ for Melbourne.

‘P’ Mintmark for sovereigns minted in Perth. Source: Numista.

The sovereign became legal tender in the majority of British colonies in the 1860s, and its importance in British trade, and worldwide circulation earned it the title “the King of Coins”. By the final years of the British Empire, the sovereign was minted in four continents across the globe.

India and Australia weren’t the only countries that saw Victoria’s portrait. Her image also reached as far as Hong Kong, Ceylon, East Africa and New Zealand. In 1870 the first Canadian dollar with Victoria’s portrait was issued, taking Victoria’s image to a new side of the world for people to see.

Despite never leaving Europe, Queen Victoria’s portrait and image stood strong on coins around the world. Whilst she never stepped foot in many of the countries that she ruled over, that didn’t stop people recognising her image around the world.

The coins that they used every day provided a link to the empire that they were a part of, despite the miles between them.


If you’ve found this blog informative and have enjoyed reading, let us know in the comments below!


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