One of the things I find most interesting when collecting historic coins is the insight they give into the time they were struck and of the monarch who issued them.
A particular reign that has always fascinated collectors is that of Queen Victoria. During Victoria’s long reign only three major obverse portraits adorned her coins and they come together to chart the life and reign of one of Britain’s most popular monarchs.
The Young Head
The first effigy to feature on Queen Victoria’s coinage is known as the ‘Young Head’ portrait. This early portrait shows Victoria at the tender age of just 18, when she acceded to the throne.
The public in the early 19th century would not have been aware that the youthful Victoria depicted on their coins would soon become the leader of the largest Empire the world had ever seen and would reign longer than any British monarch before her.
The ‘Young Head’ portrait was extremely popular with the general public and remained on Victoria’s coins with only minor alterations for the majority of her reign.
The Jubilee Head
After 60 years however, it was decided that a new portrait was necessary to reflect Victoria as the elder stateswoman she had become. Victoria’s Golden Jubilee marked the occasion for a design change and Joseph Edgar Boehm was chosen to design a portrait for the 78 year old Queen.
However, Boehm’s portrait failed to gain the public’s admiration in the way its predecessor had. The portrait was met with ridicule by the general public who found the small crown balanced precariously on her head as unrealistic and almost comical.
The Veiled Head
The ‘Jubilee’ portrait was quickly replaced in 1893 after only six years, with what was to be the final obverse used on Victoria’s coinage. This new effigy was designed by Thomas Brock and shows a mature bust of the Queen with a veil representing her long period of mourning after the death of her husband Prince Albert.
Victoria was deeply attached to her husband and she sank into depression after his death. For the rest of her reign she wore black and the final portrait of the highly respected Queen represents this secluded period of mourning that came towards the end of her life.
Together, these coin portraits tell the story of Queen Victoria, with each marking an important period from her long reign. All of these coins are now over 100 years old and for me they epitomise Victorian coin collecting.
If you’re interested…
Today you have the opportunity to own each of these key portraits in the Queen Victoria Half Crown Set. However, these historic coins are very difficult to source and we only have a limited number available.
Click here for more details >>
In 1910, one of the largest gatherings of European royalty took place for the funeral of King Edward VII – the ‘Uncle’ of Europe.
The nine Heads of State who were famously photographed in Windsor Castle also represented nine of the most important European currencies during that period in history. Now for the first time in the UK, the gathering has been recreated in a unique set of original coins from that era…
Standing: 1st from left – King Haakon VII of Norway
King Haakon VII ruled from 1905 until 1957, and he is regarded as one of the most important Norwegians of the 20th Century for his stoicism during WWII.
The 1 Kroner coin shown here was struck from 800/1000 Silver up until 1915. After this, Norway’s regular coinage was almost all cupro-nickel, marking the end of an era.
Standing: 2nd from left – Tsar Ferdinand of the Bulgarians
Tsar Ferdinand established the Royal dynasty in independent Bulgaria, in 1908 he was pronounced their first ever ‘King.’ But he was forced to abdicate during WWI, and he lived to see his monarchy deposed by Socialists in 1946.
However one thing did survive, and that was the Lev – the Bulgarian currency which is still in use today.
Standing: 3rd from left – King Manuel II of Portugal
King Manuel II was the last ever King of Portugal, as their monarchy was dissolved in October 1910 and Manuel spent the rest of his life in exile.
This makes Manuel II coins particularly sought after by collectors as they were only struck in three years – like the 500 Reis shown here.
Standing: 4th from left – Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia
In 1910, when this photograph was taken, Kaiser Wilhelm II was still held in some regard in Britain. The last ever Emperor of Germany and Prussia, he abdicated in 1918 after losing support from the military, marking the end of the German monarchy.
He left behind him a legacy of attractive 900/1000 silver Marks however, like the 2 Mark coin pictured here.
Standing: 5th from left – King George I of Hellenes
Originally a Danish prince, George was born in Copenhagen. He was only 17 years old when he was elected king and he reigned for almost 50 years – the longest in Modern Greek history. Unfortunately, King George’s reign came to an end on 18th March, 1913 when he was assassinated during the First Balkan War.
The distinctive 2 Drachmai which carries the King’s portrait features the Greek goddess Thetis with shield of Achilles, seated upon a seahorse.
Standing: 6th from left – King Albert I of Belgium
King Albert I reigned Belgium from 1909-1934, which was an eventful period in the History of Belgium. It included the period of World War I, the adoption of the Treaty of Versailles and the first five years of the Great Depression.
The 20 Franc coin pictured here was minted within the last two years of King Albert I’s reign and is incredibly collectible today. If your 1934 coin is struck en medaille then it is significantly rarer than the standard issues – definitely one to keep in the collection.
Sitting: 1st from left – King Alfonso XIII of Spain
Alfonso was monarch from birth as his father Alfonso XII had died the previous year. Until his 16th birthday in 1902, his mother, Maria Christina of Austria, served as his regent.
As he was born King, early coins from Alfonso’s reign featured his portrait as a child, such as this 5 Pesetas from 1898 which pictures the King at just 12 years old.
Sitting: 2ndfrom left – King George V of the United Kingdom
Upon the death of King Edward VIII, King George V became the new King of the United Kingdom, inheriting the throne at a politically turbulent time. He wrote in his diary:
“I have lost my best friend and the best of fathers … I never had a [cross] word with him in my life. I am heart-broken and overwhelmed with grief but God will help me in my responsibilities and darling May will be my comfort as she has always been. May God give me strength and guidance in the heavy task which has fallen on me”
His portrait was struck upon the half-crown, a British denomination equivalent to two shillings and sixpence, or one-eighth of a pound.
Sitting: 3rd from left – King Frederick VIII of Denmark
Frederick ascended the throne late in life, and only ruled for 6 years.
To mark both the death of his father King Christian IX in 1906 and Frederick’s accession to the throne, a 2 Kroner coin was issued that features both Christian IX and Frederick VIII – an extremely unusual and collectable ‘double obverse’ design.
I’ve only just scratched the surface of the coinage behind the remarkable photograph. Suffice to say, we will probably never see an assembly of Monarchs like it ever again.
You can own all of these fascinating coins in the limited edition Funeral of King Edward VII Nine Coin Silver Set.