World Coins

Royal Mint design for coin under fire for wrongly depicting alien war machines

The reverse design for the Royal Mint’s 2021 commemorative £2 coin honoring the life and work of science fiction author H.G. Wells has been criticized by fans for two elements of the design that are inconsistent with his stories.

Images courtesy of the Royal Mint.

Call it the attack of the art critics, and this time the foe isn’t just found in Woking, Surrey, in England.

The reverse design for a new £2 coin marking the life and work of science fiction author H.G. Wells is under attack on social media and in online fan forums because a couple of obvious elements are inconsistent with the famed author’s stories.

The coin features three elements that signify Wells’ better-known works: The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Invisible Man.

American artist Chris Costello designed the coin, which the Royal Mint unveiled Jan. 4 as part of its suite of five commemorative designs for 2021. His design shows a four-legged tripod, the fighting machine used by Martians in the 1898 Wells classic The War of the Worlds.

Incredulous critics seized on the difference — a tripod by definition has three legs — to call out the design.

Twitter user @HolBolDoArt tweeted: “Now, as someone who particularly likes one of his very famous stories, can I just note that the big walking machine on the coin has four legs?

“Four legs.

“The man famous for creating the martian TRIpod.




In addition to the kerfuffle over the four-legged tripod, fans took issue with the missing facial bandages and the hat style for the star character in Wells’ 1897 work The Invisible Man.

Adam Roberts noted: “Several people have tweeted this into my timeline, so I might add: not only did Wells’ Tripods have *three* legs, Griffin, his invisible man, does not wear a top hat (he arrives at Iping, face bandaged under a “wide-brimmed hat”). So it’s two for two.”

The coin marks the 75th anniversary of the death of H.G Wells, who is “renowned for his ability to bring science fiction to life through his work, earning him nicknames such as the ‘father of science fiction,’” according to the Royal Mint.

The coin design “captures iconic images from Well’s[sic] work, including The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man,” the Royal Mint said, in its statement.

As (a site dedicated to science fiction fans) reports, attributing its information to the Royal Mint’s website page for the £2 coin, designer Chris Costello wrote he “was inspired by vintage H.G. Wells book covers and movie posters. Who can forget the spine-chilling jellyfish-like robots conceived in the promotions for The War of the Worlds? That creature was my favourite and I created my own interpretation of it that would take advantage of the circular canvas and appear to climb out of the composition.”

The Royal Mint page was then apparently changed, to reflect an artist statement Costello released in reaction to the criticism.

Costello’s statement stressed his desire to “create something original and contemporary. My design takes inspiration from a variety of machines featured in the book—including tripods and the handling machines which have five jointed legs and multiple appendages.”

The four-legged tripod, then, appears to be a compromise between the three-legged and five-legged objects.

Regarding the hat, Costello said “We discussed several styles of hats for The Invisible Man, including the wide-brimmed hat mentioned in his book, and determined that the top-hat was easily recognized as Victorian era in contrast to the futuristic machine in the background. Clearly distinguishing and connecting past and future, the visuals allude to The Time Machine represented by the Roman numeral clock.”

The resulting design “combines multiple stories into one stylized and unified composition that is emblematic of all of H.G. Well’s work and fits the unique canvas of a coin,” according to Costello.

Whether collectors take issue with the design, or still desire to commemorate the life of the famous author, the coin is only available as part of various annual sets (please see related story, page 20).

Individual collector options and circulating versions are due for later release in 2021. Any circulating coins will be struck to meet demand for the denomination, and not for a specific design, the Royal Mint has stressed in recent years.

Brilliant Uncirculated and Proof base metal versions are joined by Proof silver, Proof silver piedfort (double thick) and Proof gold versions.

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