Posts by Matthew Sotheran

The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin

Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest pastimes, with events being captured and passed on for centuries though art, music and dance long before we were writing them down. And one of the oldest and most reliable ways a country can tell its stories is through its coins.

This should come as no surprise. If you think about it, currency is the constant that has always been around in one form or another. It’s continually evolving and adapting to the next chapter in the story.

But there’s one coin in particular that holds more meaning than most – as it blends fact with fiction to produce the world’s most beautiful coin, Una and the Lion.  

Controversial, yet beyond improvement

In 1839 William Wyon was commissioned to design a new coin to commemorate the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation.

But it made headlines. It was controversial.

Una and the Lion origianl Obverse Reverse - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin
Image courtesy of National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.

In a bold move it depicted Queen Victoria as the fictional character Lady Una, from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene. Never before had someone, let alone a ruler, been featured on a coin as a fictional character.

The design shows Lady Una walking alongside her guardian and symbol of England, the lion. It is symbolic of the young monarch leading her vast empire.

Whilst a daring move, the coin was an instant success. Critics hailed it as “beyond improvement”, and to this day it’s regarded as one of the most beautiful coins to have ever been struck.

Part of its beauty was the high relief, providing exquisite intricate detail to the fictional design. But in many ways this was also its downfall, as it meant the coin could not be struck with any consistency. As a result the commemorative was only struck for one year, producing just 400 coins. This makes it extremely rare!    

The inspiration: a princess and her protector

Published in 1590, The Faerie Queene, is one of the longest and most distinguished poems in the English language. It was written during the height of the Renaissance when England had just broken away from the Catholic Church and formed its own Protestant Church. Set against the backdrop of this turbulent religious landscape, The Faerie Queene draws on history and myth to deliver numerous tales of romance, adventure, battles, morality and religion.

Una and the Lion Painting - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin
Una and the Lion, 1860, William Bell Scott

The first book of the epic poem follows the trials and tribulations of Lady Una – the young and beautiful daughter of a king and queen who have been imprisoned by a ferocious dragon. In a bid to save her parents she embarks on a quest, but on her journey she encounters a fierce lion who plans to eat her.

In a twist of events the lion is so captivated by Una’s beauty and innocence that he abandons his plans to eat her, and instead he becomes her protector and companion.

Together, the iconic pair have become a symbol of beauty, strength and endurance.

The most beautiful coin just became even more exquisite

Now, if you think it’s impossible to improve on the most beautiful coin in the world, then you haven’t encountered the East India Company yet.

Renowned for their luxurious products and exceptionally high minting standards, the East India Company has produced the most exquisite coin yet paying tribute to Una and the Lion – and in one full kilogram of silver to a mirror-like proof finish no less.  

The Una and the Lion Silver Proof Kilo Coin is surely going to be in high-demand amongst collectors, as not only does it pay tribute to one of the most iconic and rarest coins around, but it’s been issued with a miniscule edition limit.

Just 10 of these prestigious coins are available worldwide, and they are exclusively available at The Westminster Collection. There is no doubt it is going to become a future collector priority.


If you are interested…

The 10 coins available can only be purchased through The Westminster Collection. And if you’re quick you can secure one of the tiny number available. All you need to do is complete the form below and we will contact you directly to secure your coin.

Una and the Lion Silver Kilo reverse 300x296 - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin

What goes in to developing not one but THREE brand new portraits…

It’s surprising, in this new digital age, just how ‘hands-on’ designing a coin is. In fact, it’s very much the job of a master craftsman.

Never was this more evident than when the Isle of Man Treasury chose to mark the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria with three new coins, each with a brand new portrait.

The man they turned to was renowned sculptor Luigi Badia and here’s the remarkable process of how these coins were developed.

First Stage – Pencil designs   

Like most products across all industries, designing a coin starts with pencil sketches. These are then amended, potentially many times, until a final sketch is produced and approved.

Victoria 200th Birthday Gold Proof One Pound Three Coin Set Draft Set - What goes in to developing not one but THREE brand new portraits…

Second Stage – Plaster modelling

The second stage is arguably the most visually stunning. The sculptor, Luigi Badia in this case, will turn their sketches into a 3D ‘Plaster’ design. The skill involved in this process is really very impressive as every tiny detail must be modelled.

The plaster is far larger than the actual coin size to allow for this detail to be captured. The design will be resized in the next step of the process.   

Queen Victoria 200th Luigi Badia Coin Plasters Image 1 - What goes in to developing not one but THREE brand new portraits…

Third Stage – Digital Modelling

It’s during this stage where technology has certainly helped the design process. The 3D ‘Plaster’ designs are scanned and a digital file, called a greyscale, is created.

An engraving machine then uses this file to cut the design into a piece of steel that’s the actual size of the final coin. This will then be used to make the dies that will actually strike the coins.

Victoria 200th Birthday Gold Proof One Pound Three Coin Set Digital Set 1 - What goes in to developing not one but THREE brand new portraits…

Fourth Stage – Coin Striking

This final stage is when the physical coin comes to life. The specially prepared die is used to ‘strike’ the design onto a metal ‘blank’. The metal used for the blank can vary widely, from cupro-nickel to silver and gold.

Only once the mint is perfectly happy with the quality of the struck coins will they be issued.


The Queen Victoria Silver Antique £5 Set

Victoria 200th Birthday IOM Silver Antique Five Pound Three Coin Set - What goes in to developing not one but THREE brand new portraits…

This set is the only way to own all three of these stunning, specially commissioned Antique Silver £5 Coins.

Just 495 of these stunning sets are available worldwide and exclusive to The Westminster Collection.

You can secure yours today for a down payment of just £54 >>

New coins issued to commemorate the three leaders who inspired an Allied victory

2019 marks 75 years since the Normandy Landings which took place on 6th June 1944, also known as D-Day. It was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front and the subsequent liberation of Nazi-controlled Europe.

Three of the most influential people during Operation Neptune (AKA D-DAY), and World War II in its entirety, were Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and of course, King George VI. Each of these historical figures played a vital role in the Allied victory and delivering speeches that inspired the nation and boosted morale in the trenches and on the battlefield. Below we take a look at the part they played, as well as those monumental speeches.

WINSTON CHURCHILL

D Day 75th Leaders IOM CuNi BU Two Pounds Three Coin Set Churchill - New coins issued to commemorate the three leaders who inspired an Allied victory

For Winston Churchill, D-Day 6th June 1944 was the culmination of four years of struggle, hardship and frustration. Shortly after the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, Churchill had started planning for the invasion of Europe. At the time it was no more than a dream, with Britain expecting an imminent invasion by Germany. With the entry of the USA into the war, Stalin urging the opening of a second front and Britain’s growing military power and confidence, the dream became a reality. Churchill had rallied his stricken country. Now he was about to lead them to victory.

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old”.
Winston Churchill – 4th June 1944

Field Marshal BERNARD MONTGOMERY

D Day 75th Leaders IOM CuNi BU Two Pounds Three Coin Set Montgomery - New coins issued to commemorate the three leaders who inspired an Allied victory

By D-Day, Field Marshall Montgomery had proved to be a great and inspirational leader, one of the finest and most experienced battlefield generals of World War II. In 1942 he was made commander of the 8th Army and led them to victory in North Africa and on into the invasion of Italy. For D-Day, and the subsequent battle for Normandy, Montgomery was made commander of all Allied ground forces. Despite setbacks, he once again showed his outstanding qualities of leadership. On 4th May 1945 Montgomery accepted the German surrender at Luneburg Heath. He later served as NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander until 1958.

“On the eve of this great adventure I send my best wishes to every soldier in the Allied team. To us is given the honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and in the better days that lie ahead men will speak with pride of our doings. We have a great and a righteous cause. Let us pray that “The Lord Mighty in Battle“ will go forth with our armies, and that his special providence will aid us in the struggle. I want every soldier to know that I have complete confidence in the successful outcome of the operations that we are now about to begin. With stout hearts, and with enthusiasm for the contest, let us go forward to victory“.
General Bernard Montgomery – 5th June 1944

KING GEORGE VI

D Day 75th Leaders IOM CuNi BU Two Pounds Three Coin Set George VI 1 - New coins issued to commemorate the three leaders who inspired an Allied victory

On 6th June 1944 George had been King just eight years, ascending the throne in December 1936. For almost five of those years his country had been at war. Despite coming unexpectedly to the throne and his pronounced speech impediment, he had proved a popular and inspirational leader. He remained in Britain to face the horrors of the blitz and the hardships of war with his people, a calming and steadfast figure through the years of peril. On the evening of D-Day, George VI spoke to the people of Britain and the Empire and Commonwealth of the need to pray, not now for survival, but for victory.

“At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy, too young, or too old to play a part in a nationwide, a worldwide vigil of prayer as the great Crusade sets forth. If from every place of worship, from home and factory, from men and women of all ages and many races and occupations, our intercessions rise, then, please God, both now and in the future not remote, the predictions of an ancient song may be fulfilled: “The Lord will give strength unto His people, the Lord will give His people the blessing of peace”.
King George VI – 6th June 1944


To mark the 75th anniversary we are proud to announce we have issued a strictly limited Brilliant Uncirculated £2 Coin Set – click here to see more information on the D-Day 75th Anniversary Leaders Three Coin Set >>

D Day 75th Leaders IOM CuNi BU Two Pounds Three Coin Set 300x208 - New coins issued to commemorate the three leaders who inspired an Allied victory