I suppose this decade will perhaps always be remembered for having begun with a worldwide pandemic few saw coming. As late as January 2020, For instance, I distinctly remember the talk which dominated the World Money Fair in Berlin was Brexit. Hardly anyone mentioned the imminent pandemic, which for many of us, was just two months away from strict lockdowns. By the middle of March of that year, and for nearly six months of on/off lockdowns, the world practically came to a stand-still. However, the world of coins managed to stay afloat, with many mints, central banks, and auction sites still managing to keep up their schedule of production, releases, and items on offer for the majority of the year. Travel ceased, of course, and as a consequence, all numismatic events were cancelled. So, it was left up to the online portals to keep the activity going and hopefully distract attention from the despairing news. Just before the pandemic began, I had casually embarked on the enterprising and enjoyable task of acquiring missing British silver crown coins I’d missed from the last decade and during the lockdown, I certainly had more time to check leading online auction websites. As the 2020s involved only three years of the Queen’s coinage, I’ve decided to include the last three coins I added during this remarkable and once-in-a-lifetime reign to conclude this final chapter.
2020 Tuvalu $5 Royal Portraits
If portrait variation is something which attracts a collector to a particular coin, this is the piece to add to one’s collection. This silver Proof coin from the Pacific island territory of Tuvalu was, in fact, one of the items I received during the pandemic lockdown, and it was a welcome addition. In my opinion, the design covers a great span of time in terms of the effigies included on the Queen’s coinage, from the definitive portraits commissioned by the Royal Mint to those seen only on Commonwealth coinage, the Gottwald and Clark effigies. Coincidentally, my insert ticket shows that I received the coin on the 8th September, exactly one year before the Queen’s death, a fitting tribute to someone who had such an extraordinary impact on numismatics.
2022 UK £5 Platinum Jubilee
An extraordinary anniversary many in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth were looking forward to. Queen Elizabeth II was the only monarch known to three-quarters of the world’s population who were born near or after 1952. Her reign was longer than the age of many people, and there were many celebrations planned to mark both this anniversary and the end of the pandemic, which was just over two years long when the Jubilee festivities began. Collectors were keenly aware there would be countless commemorative coins on offer, but for many, it was the £5 crown and recently announced 50-pence coins which were likely to be the most sought-after. Both coins featured a commemorative obverse design which included an equestrian theme similar to those of 1953, 1977, and 2002. However, as the Queen, now 95 years old at the time of the anniversary, hadn’t officiated the Trooping of the Colour on horseback since 1986, many had hoped the coin would perhaps feature a new portrait. This choice of design was quite surprising, and with the addition of the Order of the Garter Collar surrounding the Queen on horseback, it was an outstanding look for any coin. For me personally, it was the recreation of the shield depicted on the reverse, which was reminiscent of a motif not issued since the reign of King William IV, which pulled it all together.
2023 “Tudor Beasts” £5 Two-Ounce Silver
The earlier series of the Queen’s Beasts intrigued me, not the Proof collector series, but the initial bullion-type coins released earlier. The coins were issued in gold and silver, one-ounce gold and 10 to two-ounce silver. Eventually, I collected all of the 10 beasts in the collection as well as the “completer” coin, but decided to miss the “Tudor Beasts” collection. However, the design on the 2023-dated Yale of Beaufort caught my eye for some reason, and I bought a nice silver bullion example. This was just one week before the death of the Queen and as the year shown on the design is technically and historically inaccurate, it tells a story all of its own. Producing coins a year ahead of schedule had become commonplace for years, and despite the fact the monarch portrayed on these coins was now well into her 90s, that did little to alter production habits. I will most likely complete the series as it will now include the effigies of two monarchs when the last coin is released.
During the last four decades of dedicated coin collecting, it is astonishing to note the sheer number of coins and medals that one can accumulate over this period of time. As an exercise for the last seven chapters of “Collecting world coins during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II,” I went through countless albums, boxes, and even drawers and lost count of items with the late Queen’s effigy. Every coin, of course, is considered modern, but even the earliest issues will be 70 years old next year and reflect a very different world than the one we know today. As a long-time collector, I’ve always been inclined to add coins which held some kind of historical significance or background — rarity was often not a consideration. At the start of the Queen’s reign, and with the exception of just a few commemorative coins issued for her coronation, only standard circulation-type coins were available to collectors. However, because the Queen during the early years of her reign was head of state for many more realms and on four different continents — we were still spoiled for choice and variation.
Today it is very different. Combined with an array of programmes and the fact many mints expected or hoped the Queen would continue to enjoy a long life, coins were produced a year ahead of time. So convinced that Queen Elizabeth II would go on forever that my office was consulting on numismatic projects for 2023 — the platinum anniversary of her coronation, 2024 — surpassing the 72-year-long reign of King Louis XIV and 2026 — her centenary birthday. There was even the hope the Queen would live long enough to mark 75 years as monarch by February 2027 as she would have been 100 years — nine months old at the time. Quite simply, I cannot think of another individual in history who has been depicted on as many coins, banknotes, stamps, and medals as Queen Elizabeth II, and it is likely no other person will ever come close to the duration of this prolific number.
While I would have recommended the Royal Mint produced the first coins for King Charles III to be dated 2023 — the year he will participate in his coronation, it is perhaps likely he or the mint may want to press ahead with as many years of Charles III coinage as possible. The former Prince of Wales became the oldest person to become monarch of Great Britain at 73 years old, and if he is fortunate to mark his Silver Jubilee in 2047, he will be 98 years old. For someone who has written about coins and currency for 25 years, it will be very strange indeed not to include a description of the obverse side of a coin which references the late Queen’s likeness. But, the programmes continue, and hopefully, more collectors will be added to our numbers in the coming years. What an extraordinary and rich legacy the Queen has left behind for us all in the world of numismatics. I imagine the Royal Mint will find a new pattern or time cycle of royal anniversaries to release commemorative coins similar to those released during the Queen’s reign. In 2030, the King will celebrate his silver wedding anniversary, and in 2032, he will see 10 years on the throne. However, I do believe anniversaries connected to the new Prince and Princess of Wales will also feature quite prominently in the coming years.
VIVAT REGINA ELIZABETHA!