Medallic items more abundant than coins, notes honoring Churchill
- Published: Feb 20, 2015, 3 AM
Editor's note: The following is the fifth of a six-part Coin World series about collecting the medals, coins and paper money honoring Winston Churchill, prepared by Michele Orzano for the March 2015 monthly edition of Coin World.
Winston Churchill died Jan. 24, 1965, at the age of 90. According to an article in the New York Times published on the same day, Churchill died just after 8 p.m. at his London home at Hyde Park Gate. He had suffered a stroke two weeks before.
His last public appearance was on Nov. 30, 1964, his 90th birthday “when he waved to a crowd from the window of his town house. He seemed in good spirits but feeble,” according to the New York Times article.
Queen Elizabeth II granted him a state funeral, a rarity for a commoner.
His body lay in state in Westminster Hall for three days. More than 300,000 peopled filed past the flag-draped coffin in the middle of Westminster Hall. The night before his Jan. 30 funeral, crowds lined the funeral route to stand quietly watching for the Royal Navy to pull the gun carriage bearing Churchill’s coffin from the hall to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Following the service, his coffin was carried outside in the cold and blustery weather and taken to the Tower Bridge on the Thames River. The coffin was placed on the Port of London Authority launch Havengor and it made its way down the river.
Crowds lined both river banks to pay respects. Even the dock workers dipped their wharf cranes in salute as the launch passed.
The coffin was removed from the boat at the Royal Festival Hall Pier and moved to Waterloo Station. It was loaded on a special funeral train, guarded by representatives of his old regiment, the Fourth Hussars, and taken to Lord Hanborough Station in Oxfordshire.
In the tiny village of Bladon in Oxfordshire, he was buried in the family plot at St. Martin’s Church in a private ceremony.
His survivors included Clementine, or “Clemmie,” as Churchill affectionately referred to his wife; three of their five surviving children, Randolph, Sarah and Mary (daughters Marigold died in 1921 and Diana in 1963); and 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Randolph died in 1968, Clementine died at the age of 92 on Dec. 12, 1977, and Sarah died in 1982.
The Churchill’s youngest child, Mary Churchill Soames, died May 31, 2014, at the age of 91.
No article this size can provide details about every medal, coin and paper note issued to commemorate and honor Churchill.
But it will give collectors who may be eager for a challenge a bit of “shopping list” to begin forming a collection. Medallic items, by far, are more abundant than coins and bank notes honoring Churchill.
If you are going to collect Churchill medals you will want to get your hands on a copy of The Medallic Portraits of Sir Winston Churchill by J. Eric Engstrom. The heavily illustrated book was published by Spink & Son Ltd. in London in 1972. It chronicles medals issued from 1916 to 1971, three years before the 1974 centennial of Churchill’s birth spawned even more.
It begins with a series of satirical medals issued from 1916 to 1939 (not covered in this article) and continues with medals produced from 1941 until 1971.
On many of the medals, Churchill is depicted in a suit and bowtie or military uniform.
Other medals feature portraits of him in his famous “siren suit,” so called because the one-piece garment covered the whole body and was easy to don on the way to air-raid shelters. He had several made for himself in pin-striped blue serge or in emerald green velvet fabrics.
Listed here are a few of the many different medals issued around the world honoring Churchill.
In 1965, a Churchill memorial medal was designed by Ralph J. Menconi, issued by Presidential Art Medals Inc. and struck by Medallic Art Co. in silver and bronze versions.
One side of the medal features a facing bust of Churchill with the legend SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL and the dates 1875 and 1965.
The other side shows the seal of the royal arms of the United Kingdom in the right foreground. A smaller seal of the United States appears in the left foreground. Behind the seals is a depiction of the Houses of Parliament with clouds above.
Also in 1965, a Churchill memorial medal was issued by Huguenin Medailleurs in Le Locle, Switzerland. The medal was designed by Fritz Jeanneret of Switzerland.
Two design variants of this Swiss medal are known — one features a legend on the back and the other is uniface. Both variants were struck in silver and bronze. A bust of Churchill faces slightly to the left, while a sculptural technique gives the field a rough look. An incuse holographic signature of Winston S. Churchill appears below the bust.
The medal’s other side, when not plain, shows inscribed on a field of clouds 30TH NOVEMBER 1874/ SIR WINSTON / CHURCHILL/ 24TH JANUARY 1965.
In 1967 the Britannia Commemorative Society of Philadelphia and the Britannia Commemorative Society Ltd. in London, jointly issued medals struck in platinum, gold and silver, in different sizes and finishes. The Franklin Mint in Yeadon, Pa.; Johnson, Matthey & Co. Ltd., in London; and John Pinches Medalists Ltd., in London, all struck the medals.
One side shows a three-quarter portrait of Churchill facing left with text 1874 SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL 1965 around the portrait. The other side shows a rampant lion, facing left, holding an upraised sword, and the restored St. Paul’s Cathedral portrayed phoenix-like rising reborn from fire. The legend WE SHALL NEVER SURRENDER nearly surrounds the design.
In 1969, legislation was approved by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon authorizing the U.S. Mint to produce silver and bronze medals to commemorate the “Iron Curtain” speech given by Churchill in March 1946, to be sold to the Fulton (Missouri) Area Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber then sold the medals to help defray costs of the congressional gold medal presented to Lady Clementine Churchill by Nixon in honor of her late husband.
Frank Gasparro designed the obverse of the Fulton medal, showing the head and shoulders of Churchill wearing a bow tie and academic robe, which he wore to receive his honorary degree from Westminster College. His portrait is depicted three-quarters toward the viewer.
Edgar Z. Steever IV designed the reverse depicting the former London church-turned-memorial.
The various medals can be found in public and online auctions such as eBay and from dealers who specialize in medals.
Great Britain has honored Churchill on three coins and they all should be readily available.
In 1965 the Royal Mint issued a crown coin honoring Churchill, shortly after his death. The obverse is a portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II and the reverse features a right-facing portrait of Churchill with the word CHURCHILL along the right side of the design.
Production of the reeded-edge, copper-nickel coins totaled 9.6 million pieces struck. Mary Gillick designed the queen’s portrait and Oscar Neman designed Churchill’s portrait.
In 2010 the Royal Mint issued the first coin in its three-year “Celebration of Britain” series leading up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The back design on the copper-nickel and silver versions of the £5 coins features a rendition of a full length statue of Churchill with walking cane. The design is based on a statue of Churchill unveiled in 1973 in Parliament Square in London.
The emblem from the London Games appears to the left of Churchill’s portrait, along with a quote, BE DARING, BE FIRST, BE DIFFERENT, BE JUST, attributed to the late British human rights activist and environmental campaigner Dame Anita Roddick.
Churchill will be the design focus of two 2015 coins.
The first is a £5 coin with his portrait on the reverse. The portrait shows three-quarters of Churchill’s face but takes up almost all of the surface of the coin. A single inscription, CHURCHILL, appears above and to the right of his left ear.
The edge lettering reads: NEVER FLINCH, NEVER WEARY, NEVER DESPAIR.
The Royal Mint’s second 2015 coin to carry a portrait of Churchill will be that Mint’s third silver £20-for-£20 coin. The silver £20 coin, like the £5 coin, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death.
The coin features a portrait of Churchill designed by figurative sculptor Etienne Millner, who took inspiration from a photograph of Churchill taken by Yousuf Karsh in 1941 when Churchill was visiting Canada.
The obverse side features Ian Rank-Broadley’s effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
But it isn’t just Churchill’s homeland that has honored him on coins. In 1974, in honor of the centennial of his birth, the Turks and Caicos Islands placed his portrait on the reverse of a commemorative 20-crown coin. The portrait of Churchill faces left and the inscription WINSTON CHURCHILL CENTENARY 1974 surrounds the portrait. The obverse design features the islands’ coat of arms.
The Falkland Islands issued 1999 50-penny coins depicting Churchill in a Royal Navy admiral’s uniform on the reverse side. The coins were struck in copper-nickel, silver and gold. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II appears on the obverse.
A military-theme can also be seen in the design of 1999 50-penny coins issued by Tristan da Cunha, featuring Churchill in a military uniform facing left, with two fighter planes in the background.
Tristan da Cunha is a remote group of volcanic islands in the south Atlantic Ocean. It was named for the Portuguese explorer Tristao da Cunha. The islands are now part of the three-part British overseas territory including Saint Helena and Ascension.
In 2006, the Channel Island of Alderney issued silver £5 coins featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and, on the reverse, a portrait of Churchill facing the viewer, with the inscription SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL and FIVE POUNDS. A small round insert shows a portion of the Union Jack flag.
Again, a search of auction catalogs and fixed-price lists from dealers of world coins, as well as online auctions, are good places to start looking for these and other examples.
Keep reading our series about Winston Churchill's numismatic legacy:
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