The Royal Mint have announced today that the current portrait used on both circulation and many commemorative coins will be replaced with a new effigy from 2015.
HM Queen Elizabeth II, who will mark her 63rd year of reign on the 6th February 2015, has been portrayed on British, commonwealth and colonial coinage since 1953. The first definitive portrait of Her Majesty was created by sculptress Mary Gillick which saw the young Queen, just 26 years old, wearing a garland of olive leaves – shoulders also shown. This portrait remained in use until 1970 when the last of the shilling coinage was produced. A new second portrait, created by the talented artist Arnold Machin would without doubt, become for most well-known portrait of the Queen, synonymous with the new Elizabethan age. Her Majesty is seen wearing Queen Mary’s tiara – given to her by her Grandmother – also depicted with a flowing drape around her shoulders. This iconic portrait would remain in use from 1968 with the production of the new 5 and 10 new Pence coins (in preparation for Decimal Day in February 1971) until its retirement in 1985. A new “diadem” portrait was introduced as the Queen’s third depiction which was the work of Raphael Maklouf. This more mature depiction of the Queen was very well received, she is wearing a diadem and was designed without shoulders shown. In 1998, the now instantly recognizable image of the Queen, the fourth portrait by Artist Ian Rank-Broadley was introduced to critical acclaim. Showing a more mature face, the portrait was described as having stronger features and quite detailed. The Queen is once more depicted wearing Queen Mary’s tiara.
With the retirement of this fourth portrait next year, this portrait would have been in use for 16 years, the longest time any numismatic image has been utilized. The Royal Mint announced that the new portrait, which will be the Queen’s fifth – and not yet decided on, will be chosen by a closed competition commissioned by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC) where a number of specialist designers are invited to submit designs under anonymous cover, before a winner is selected by the RMAC.
The Royal Mint have also announced that 2015 will be something of a vintage year for UK coins, and that the first 2015 dated coins to be released, such as the new 2015 Sovereign, will be the last ever coins to feature the current effigy that has become so familiar to us all. This 2015 Sovereign will be a particularly special issue, as the early editions will feature the current portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley, while those struck in 2015 will be amongst the very first to feature the new effigy.
As the Queen will also be celebrating another milestone anniversary later on in 2015, that of the longest reign in British history, this portrait, will most likely be included in commemorative coinage celebrating this extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime event. For more information on the history of UK coinage, please visit the website of the Royal Mint Museum at: http://www.royalmintmuseum.org.uk/