The ‘heads’, or obverse, side of a coin has depicted the image of a monarch or ruler for thousands of years.

However, the nature of these images have changed over the centuries. From the Ancient Greeks to Queen Elizabeth II, in this blog we guide you through the differing historic heads of uk coinage.

Ancient Greece and Rome

An Ancient Greek coin depicting the portrait of Zeus.

The coins of ancient Greece set the design template for the circulating coins that we use today in the UK!

On one side, their coins show a portrait of the symbol of national sovereignty and on the other side, we see something that resembles the nation.

Coins of ancient Greece and Rome were provided for city states and depict images of iconic leaders and the gods that protected them.

Roman coins depict the faces of the leaders of the empire, including Emperor Honoria.

Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Period

Medieval coin featuring the portrait of Edward III

The AngloSaxon period in Britain spans approximately the six centuries from 410-1066AD.

In the ninth century The Royal Mint struck a silver penny of Alfred the Great at the time of the resettlement of London after its first occupation by the Vikings. 

The coin would have been struck by hand and the design showcases the rigid markings that would have come as a result of hand tools.

The Renaissance and the Tudors

Tudor coin featuring the portrait of King Henry VIII

The Sovereign is undoubtedly one of the most impressive coins struck by The Royal Mint.

In 1489, Henry VII ordered a new coin of gold. The coin surface was large, enabling the engraver to include decorative details. It allowed for more detailed portraits of monarchs.

The portrait on this coin is of the crowned King Henry VIII.

Charles II

Gold coin featuring the reversed portrait of Charles II

When Charles II was restored to the throne, he needed to assert his royal authority and to show a clear break from the rule of Oliver Cromwell.

It’s been suggested that the tradition of monarchs facing in the opposite direction to their predecessor on coins, dates back to Charles II when he wanted coins under his reign to be different from that of Cromwell.

Victoria

Queen Victoria Gothic Florin

Despite reigning for 64 years, there were few coinage portraits of Queen Victoria, with one being favoured for 50 years.

For 50 years the ‘Young Head’ effigy of Queen Victoria featured on UK coinage this classically styled portrait was reinterpreted several times, with each effigy designed to portray the queen as she aged.

Queen Elizabeth II

2020 dated 50p featuring the fifth portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II

Five portraits of Her Majesty The Queen have been used on UK coins since her accession to the throne in 1952.

The Queen’s first portrait, by Mary Gillick, shows her wearing a wreath in the style of many British coins struck between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. This portrait remained on UK coins up until decimalisation, when Arnold Machin’s new portrait of The Queen was used (pictured above).

The effigy selected for use from 1985 was prepared by the sculptor Raphael Maklouf, in which she is depicted wearing a necklace and earrings.

By her fourth portrait, designed by Ian Rank-Broadley, a greater degree of realism was used. It shows The Queen in her sixth decade, her crowned head filling the coin’s surface. 

The fifth and most recent portrait of The Queen is by Royal Mint designer Jody Clark. This is 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.


So now you know how the portraits on our coins have changed over the years, which portrait is your favourite? Comment below!


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The United States are facing a nationwide coin shortage in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic – urging members of the public to use cash where possible to help ease the coin crisis.

As more people turn to online shopping and contactless payments and avoid using physical money due to the virus, the normal flow of currency has been severely interrupted.

Last year, third-party coin processors and retailers accounted for around 83% of coins in the US coin supply chain.

However, as many stores have been closed and with the US Mint briefly slowing production to implement safety measures, further interruptions to this supply chain have been caused.

The effects mean that as stores are reopening, retailers are quickly exhausting their cash inventories, with some now advising customers they may not be able to provide change in coins.

Solving the US coin supply problem

The US Mint is now asking people to return any coins they might have lying around and to use exact cash for purchases to help replenish the country’s supply.

The Fed have even convened a US Coin Task Force, working to restore the vital coin supply chain.

And what’s more, one particular bank has even started paying members of the public to return any spare change.

UK Coin Shortage?

With the UK public being urged to use contactless where possible during the pandemic, could we too being facing a similar issue soon?

In recent years demand for cash in the UK has dropped, not simply because card payments have increased, but also due to the introduction of the 12-sided £1 coin in 2017.

As members of the public were tasked with returning their old round pound coins to the bank, other denominations, loose change and unwanted coins were also returned, meaning a surplus of cash was injected into the system.

We’ve certainly felt the effects of this with the lack of new coins entering circulation in the last few years.

Secondary Market Coin Prices

We recently updated the Change Checker eBay Tracker, revealing the average selling prices for the top 10 UK coins and banknotes.

Amazingly, there’s been an 18% increase in the overall value of these issues – the biggest increase we’ve seen since the Tracker began!

With less cash being used in the past few months, it’s likely collectors are heading to the secondary market to get hold of certain coins, rather than waiting to find them in their change.

Additionally, with more time being spent at home and people seeking new hobbies to keep themselves entertained, new collectors are perhaps becoming more aware of rare and collectable coins that might be worth owning and as a result, are heading to the secondary market to get hold of one.

We’ve seen this increased demand on the secondary market driving up the prices, particularly for the more rare and sought-after coins.

Kew Gardens 50p sold for £189.95 on eBay

Now, as more retailers open up shop in the UK and the country starts to head towards the ‘new normal’, will we start to see more cash exchanging hands once again? And will collectors be able to start hunting down coins in their change once more?

Perhaps one of the biggest questions on collector’s lips will be whether we’ll see an increase in demand, leading to new commemorative coins being released into circulation…

At Change Checker HQ we’ve certainly got our fingers crossed!


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

January 2019 eBay Tracker Update

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It’s common knowledge among Change Checkers that The Royal Mint strikes all the coins in the United Kingdom – and has done for centuries.

But what may come as a surprise to many collectors is The Royal Mint has historically struck coins for a variety of countries around the world!

Currently, outside of the UK, The Royal Mint provides services for over 60 different countries, including New Zealand and many Caribbean nations.

In the past, The Royal Mint has struck coins for North and South America, Africa and the Middle East!

In this blog, we take a look at our Top Five most interesting world coins struck by our very own UK Royal Mint and the stories behind them.


“From Norway to New Zealand, from Bermuda to Brunei, coins have been struck at The Royal Mint for countries all over the world.”

– The Royal Mint Museum


New Brunswick 1861 Half-Cent

Across the 18th and 19th centuries The Royal Mint, which was then based in London, minted several coins for North American states and the Caribbean.

Interestingly, in 1861 a half-cent coin, made of bronze, was minted for New Brunswick. More than 200,000 of these half-cent coins were struck, even though the denomination wasn’t actually needed.

It is said these coins were struck as a misunderstanding at The Royal Mint (that’s quite a misunderstanding!) and the majority of these were melted down. However, there has been reports that a lucky few coins have survived!

New Brunswick 1861 Half-Cent (Credit: The Royal Mint Museum Blog)

Norway 1942 25 Aurar

Many Change Checkers might be familiar with some of the coins struck by the UK Royal Mint throughout the Second World after reading our blog featuring coins struck in the UK for Iceland.

In addition to this a coinage was undertaken in the Second World War for the Norwegian government in anticipation of the country’s liberation from occupying forces.

Made out of Nickel-Brass and shipped to Norway ready for their liberation, this could have been one of the most exciting Norwegian coins in circulation.

However, the coin was never issued and the large majority of these were returned to The Royal Mint a few years later and melted down.

Norway 1942 25 Aurar (Credit: The Royal Mint Museum Blog)

Nigeria 1959 Shilling

This Nigerian Shilling was made out of Cupro-Nickel, the same composition we are familiar with on modern United Kingdom 50 pence coins.

With an order of more than 1,000 million pieces for this new, distinctive Nigerian coinage, this is by far the largest international coin order The Royal Mint had ever received – quite the honour!

Nigeria 1959 Shilling (Credit: The Royal Mint Museum Blog)

Hong Kong 1863 Mil

Introduced in 1863, the Hong Kong Mils were the first-ever perforated coins to be produced at The Royal Mint.

Perforated coins usually refer to coins which have a hole punched through the middle.

To date, although The Royal Mint have produced this style of coins for several other nations including East Africa, the United Kingdom has never had a perforated coin in their tender.

Hong Kong 1863 Mil (Credit: The Royal Mint Museum Blog)

Australia 1951 Penny

Demand for Australian coinage in 1951 exceeded the capacity of the Brand Mints in Melbourne and Perth, and so the UK Royal Mint was approached for assistance.

Interestingly, the Australian coinage pieces struck in London are distinguishable by the addition of the tiny letters ‘PL’ which recalls a mintmark used by the UK Mint in Roman times.

Australia 1951 Penny (Credit: The Royal Mint Museum Blog)

So, there we have it! Our Top Five most interesting coins struck by the UK Royal Mint for countries around the world!

These coins tell quite the story of The Royal Mint’s long and important history in world coinage.

If you have any exciting coins from around the world or stories you’d like to share, let us know in the comments below!  


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

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Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app