Royal Mint unveils King Charles III's coinage portrait
By Jeff Starck , Coin World,Published: Sep 30, 2022, 8 AM
Barely three weeks after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Royal Mint has unveiled images of its new effigy of the United Kingdom’s new king.
On Sept. 30, the Royal Mint revealed that this new image of King Charles III, designed by famed British sculptor Martin Jennings, would appear first on memorial coins for the new king’s late mother.
The image, which will appear on circulating 50-penny coins and commemorative £5 crowns, will also be adopted across the Royal Mint’s coinage over the coming weeks. Charles III has personally approved the new effigy, according to the Royal Mint.
By Jan. 1, 2023, the Royal Mint said, all coins made by the UK entity will feature the new effigy, though circulating coins with the new image may take some time to enter circulation, as demand warrants, across the isles.
About the new effigy
The portrait was sculpted from a photograph of the king.
In keeping with tradition, the king’s portrait faces to the left, the opposite direction of coinage portraits of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Latin inscription surrounding the effigy reads • CHARLES III • D • G • REX • F • D • 5 POUNDS • 2022, which translates to “King Charles III, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith.”
The reverse of the commemorative £5 coin features two new portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. The design was created by artist John Bergdahl in collaboration with the Royal Mint.
The reverse of the 50 pence features a design that originally appeared on the 1953 Coronation crown.
The 1953 coin was struck to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation at Westminster Abbey, and the reverse design includes the four quarters of the royal arms, each depicted within a shield. In between each shield is an emblem of the home nations: a rose, a thistle, a shamrock and a leek.
The Royal Mint has depicted Britain’s royal family on coins for over 1,100 years, documenting each monarch since Alfred the Great. The work to showcase members of the Royal family is ongoing.
When work began
Royal Mint Museum Information and Research Manager Chris Barker, secretary to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, told Coin World that Jenning’s design was selected from a closed competition by the RMAC among an undisclosed number of artists.
The design has been in the works for “about a year,” he said.
Given the advanced age of the now-late queen, and the standard practice of having on hand designs for various members of the royal family, the design was mostly ready, with a plaster created months ago, and lettering and other details added since the Sept. 8 death of Queen Elizabeth II.
“We’re always doing work with royal portraits,” Barker said. “There are a host of potential uses this design could have been used for.”
Production of the new design was available with such expediency because digital production tools are in place today that did not exist the last time a new effigy was required because of a change in monarch, Barker said.
The new king’s “grace and dignity” come across in Jenning’s design, Barker said.
“The King was very satisfied with it when he signed off on it last week,” Barker said Sept. 29, ahead of the announcement.
“Martin’s done an excellent job. It’s a marvelous portrait of Charles III. It reflects a mature king. It really does stand well with classic numismatic portraits. You get the sense of a classic coinage design.”
This is the first coin design by Jennings (who was born in 1957), who previously made a name for himself in the United Kingdom with several large bronze sculptures, including one of George Orwell, another of Charles Dickens, and another of female munitions workers from World War II.
Jennings has twice been awarded the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture, the second time for that Orwell sculpture, found outside the BBC headquarters.
What is likely to become his most famous work will be his smallest as well, appearing on a range of circulating coins from the penny to £2, and on commemorative coins.
“It is humbling to know [the design] will be seen and held by people around the world for centuries to come,” Jennings said, in a press release from the Royal Mint.
New alongside the old
All UK coins bearing the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II will remain legal tender.
Coins with the new effigy will circulate alongside the approximately 27 billion coins depicting Queen Elizabeth II, and there will not be a massive withdrawal of coins depicting the late monarch.
Historically it has been commonplace for coins featuring the effigies of different monarchs to co-circulate. This ensures a smooth transition, with minimal environmental impact and cost.
Earlier coins depicting the late queen will be replaced over time as they become damaged or worn and to meet demand for additional coins.
Full details of the Queen Elizabeth II memorial coins are slated for release at 9 a.m. UK time on Oct. 3, at www.royalmint.com.
Nicola Howell, chief commercial officer of the Royal Mint, said that the release of the Royal Mint’s annual coin sets (which usually occurs in December, with coins dated the following year) will be shifted some six to eight weeks to accommodate the new design, and to allow appropriate focus on the memorial coins.