World Coins

Top 10 Stories of 2015: Queen Elizabeth II's new look

The Mint announced Nov. 14 that it would officially move forward with production of centennial editions in 2016.

Original images courtesy of the Royal Mint

Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed a historic 2015, becoming the longest reigning British monarch.

Her coins also made history, as the Royal Mint in March introduced a new definitive effigy of the queen for its coinage.

This is only the fifth definitive portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to appear on United Kingdom circulating coins since her accession to the throne in 1952. The previous effigy by Ian Rank-Broadley was introduced in 1998, with preceding designs by Raphael Maklouf (1985), Arnold Machin (1968), and Mary Gillick (1953).

The new effigy was designed by Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark, the first time a Royal Mint engraver’s design was chosen for a definitive royal coinage portrait in more than 100 years.

The last Royal Mint engraver to be commissioned to undertake a royal portrait was George William de Saulles, who engraved the portrait of Edward VII that first appeared on the coinage in 1902.

Clark was just 33 when his portrait design was selected from a number of anonymous submissions to an invitational design competition. That makes him the youngest of the five designers to have created the portraits of Queen Elizabeth II that have appeared on U.K. circulating coins during her 63-year reign.

Commenting on the honor of being selected, Clark said: “I really liked the four previous coin portraits — each one is strong in its own way. I hope that I’ve done [the queen] justice and captured her as I intended, in a fitting representation. The news that my design had been chosen was quite overwhelming, and I still can’t quite believe that my royal portrait will be featured on millions of coins, playing a small part in the Royal Mint’s 1,000 year history.”

Clark’s portrayal of the queen, wearing the Royal Diamond Diadem crown worn for her coronation, was selected in a closed competition organized by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, a consultative panel to the Treasury comprising experts from such fields as history, sculpture, architecture, art and design. 

A number of specialist designers from across Britain were invited to submit their own interpretations of the queen’s portrait under anonymous cover, and each one was judged on its merits and suitability before the winning artwork was recommended to the Chancellor and, ultimately, the queen for approval. 

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