British History

The Easter coins that trace their history back to the time of Jesus…

It’s a tradition that dates back to the time of the Bible. During the Last Supper, Jesus famously washed the feet of his disciples as a sign of his humility, and it was this religious event that inspired an Easter tradition which takes place to this day.

Christ washing Peters feet Anonymous  - The Easter coins that trace their history back to the time of Jesus…
Christ washing the feet of St Peter

Since the thirteenth century, members of the Royal Family have followed Jesus’ example, giving gifts to the poor and washing their feet on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. By the eighteenth century, the act of washing feet was discontinued and the accompanying gifts were replaced by a money allowance, known as Maundy money.

And it was this change that created one of the most interesting of all the historic Royal Mint releases.

Royal Maundy 1867 1024x709 - The Easter coins that trace their history back to the time of Jesus…
The Royal Maundy Thursday Service, 1867

The first Maundy money ceremony took place in the reign of Charles II, when the King gave people undated hammered coins in 1662. The tradition has continued for over 350 years and today’s recipients of Royal Maundy are elderly men and women, chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and the community.

At the ceremony, the monarch hands each recipient two small leather string purses. A red purse contains ordinary coins, while a white one contains the extremely special silver Maundy coins, amounting to the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age.

UK 1852 Queen Victoria Young Head Maundy Money Silver Penny Obverse Reverse - The Easter coins that trace their history back to the time of Jesus…
Victorian Maundy Money, 1852

Its deeply historical roots are what makes Maundy Money a rare highlight in any classic coin collection. But because of their extremely limited mintage and the fact they have never been issued into general circulation, they now stand as a one of the most highly sought after Easter gifts in the world!


UK 1852 Queen Victoria Young Head Maundy Money Silver Penny - The Easter coins that trace their history back to the time of Jesus…

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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…

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The longest bank holiday in British history…

In August 1914, the British economy was in turmoil because of the instability brought on by the oncoming war on the continent. Bankers and politicians were desperately looking for ways to secure Britain’s finances and prevent the banks from collapsing.

So to buy time to look for a solution, the government extended the national bank holiday on 3rd August to include Tuesday 4th, Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th August – making this the longest bank holiday in British history!

1 1st series 1914 note - The longest bank holiday in British history...
£1 1st Series Treasury Issue Banknote

The government decided that a large supply of banknotes had to be made available for the values of £1 and 10 shillings, making it easy for the public to make small transactions and to dissuade the hoarding of precious metal coins. However, The Bank of England was not able to prepare and print the required number of notes quickly enough, so the government took the unprecedented step of deciding to issue the notes itself.

These banknotes became known as the Treasury banknotes and were unlike anything the British public had ever seen. Until this point the lowest denomination banknote was £5, and in those days this was such a large sum that many people would never have seen or used a banknote before.

That means that these Treasury notes now stand out as the first widely circulated banknotes in England.

SPEC 1 3rd Series 1917 obverse reverse note - The longest bank holiday in British history...
£1 3rd Series Treasury Issue Banknote

And what’s more, the Treasury notes featured a portrait of King George V. Nowadays we’re used to seeing Her Majesty on our banknotes, but the Treasury notes were the first British notes to feature a portrait of the monarch. In fact, Bank of England notes would not display an image of the monarch until 1960.

Treasury notes played a vital role in keeping the economy moving during the First World War and for the first time in England and Wales, paper money became normal currency used by ordinary people.

These notes were born out of Britain’s longest bank holiday and now stand as some of the most interesting banknotes in notaphily history!


If you’re interested…

Warren Fisher One Pound Silver Banknote Close Up2 1 - The longest bank holiday in British history...

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