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 >>
While I was watching “Civilisations” on the Beeb last week they mentioned how the introduction of the Trade Dollar was the first step in globalisation – this got me thinking, so I made a cup of tea and looked into the history of the Trade Dollar and it truly is a fascinating tale.
Way back in the 16th Century, the first trading currency came to be because of the popularity of the silver Spanish dollar (better known as pieces of eight – yes those!) in China and they created the “Dragon Dollar” or “Silver Dragon” which were not only used in China, but also became the preferred currency for trade with their neighbours.
In the 19th Century, the Chinese were defeated in the First Opium War and forced to open their ports to foreign trade. The British merchants from The East India Company were now able to take advantage of the silk, porcelain spice and tea trade in the Orient.
The Rise of the British Trade Dollar
Now, with so many routes to trade it made sense for each country’s traders to mint their own coins, from their own supplies of silver. BUT these new silver trade coins all had to be minted to the same specification as the famous Spanish Dollar weighing in at approximately 27g and minted in 0.900 silver. The trade dollar was truly born and trading was made easier for the world – hence the movement of goods (and people) became more prevalent and “globalisation” started.
Our British Trade Dollar was first minted from 1895 and designed by George William De Saulles – a British coin with an eastern feel, it was exclusively for use in the Far East. For the first time on a coin, it showed a helmet-wearing Britannia holding a trident and the British shield with a merchant ship in the background.
Although The East India Company had been trading since the early 1600s, the introduction of the British Trade Dollar secured them as the single most powerful economic force of its time – tea, silks, spices and so much more travelling across the world on their ships not only for Britain, but also the rest of the Empire and Commonwealth. Without the original version of this coin we would be waiting for a cup of tea for a very long time!
A 21st Century spin on a 19th Century coin
This year, The East India Company is launching a coin that has been faithfully inspired by the original British Trade Dollar – The East India Company 2018 Trade Dollar 1oz Silver Proof Coin features Britannia surrounded by an oriental pattern. The obverse for the first time, displays the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by an arabesque cartouche.
A Faithful nod in these modern times to the coin that started it all.
If you’re interested:
You can own the 2018 East India Company 1oz Silver Proof Trade Dollar, but you’ll have to be quick as just 2,500 have been issued worldwide! Click here to secure yours now >>
This year marks the centenary of the Royal Air Force, arguably the most important military anniversary to be celebrated in British history. In fact, there are numerous official events and ceremonies planned up and down the country to mark the occasion – including a service at Westminster Abbey with an RAF parade and flypast!
It has been a glorious 100 years, full of extreme courage, bravery and self-sacrifice by the men and women who served and continue to serve.
And, to mark this historic occasion, a brand new Official RAF Centenary Five Pound Proof Coin has just been issued on behalf of the Bailiwick of Jersey. In my opinion, it is one of the most striking military coins ever issued and is the perfect tribute to ensure the remarkable feats of technology and courage of our RAF are never forgotten.
So what’s the story behind the design?
For such an important anniversary, we knew the design had to be particularly special and we felt there was no better person for the job than ex-Royal Mint designer, Mike Guilfoyle.
Mike has 30 years of experience designing coins that have circulated around the world and has produced some of the most stunning British Isles coins ever minted. We were lucky enough to see the design process through with him.
From the start it was clear we wanted to include the most renowned planes from the RAF’s history and Mike came up with multiple options for us.
However, it was the idea to show the incredible changes in technology over the last 100 years that really captured our imagination. The coin features three of the most important aircraft from the last century; the Sopwith Camel, the Supermarine Spitfire and the Lockheed Lightning II which brings us right up to the present day and looks towards the future of our RAF.
Highly detailed design – intricate striking
Through careful research and communicating closely with the MOD, Mike has been able to render each plane in exquisite detail.
But this high level of detail and care didn’t just stop at design level. You can clearly see it’s been replicated right through to the striking of Mike’s design on the coins – what really took me aback is that none of the detail has been lost – that’s because the use of Modern Minting techniques used to produce the coins has resulted in one of the most intricately struck coins I’ve ever seen.
What makes it even better is that each plane has been enhanced with 24-Carat Gold Ink to really show off the detail and make it stand out against the Proof background.
The most iconic aircraft of the RAF
Here’s a bit more about why these three special planes have been chosen to feature on the coin:
The Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel has become one of the most iconic fighter aircraft of the First World War.
In fact, J. M. Bruce tells us that “The total number of enemy aircraft shot down by Camels was 1,294, a greater number than were defeated by any other single type of aeroplane of the 1914-18 war”
With that astonishing achievement this aircraft continued to serve until 1923 – an incredible lifespan for a plane in this era. 
Considering that the Sopwith Camel was serving from the very beginning of the RAF’s official formation and it was such an important part of the First World War, its place in RAF history is well-secured and was a clear choice to be featured on this stunning coin.
The Supermarine Spitfire
The Spitfire has to be one of the most famous British fighter aircraft in history and it has become the most iconic aircraft of the Second World War.
In fact, this aircraft has become synonymous with one battle in particular; the Battle of Britain. Alongside the Hawker Hurricane, this aircraft helped to defeat the German air attacks during the Battle of Britain and was seen as such a superior aircraft for it’s time that The RAF Museum states “at the height of the Battle of Britain…a German ace…in a moment of anger and frustration, turned to his Commander in Chief and demanded a squadron of Spitfires!” 
With that in mind, and considering the Spitfire still astonishes the crowds at air shows today, featuring this plane was another unanimous decision.
The Lockheed Lightning II
Now, this multi-role supersonic stealth aircraft is an incredible example of just how far technology has come and is definitely a plane which will play a key part in the RAF’s future.
In fact, 2018 sees the 617Squadron, becoming the first RAF Squadron equipped with the Lightning II aircraft, of which the UK has so far taken delivery of 9. 
To me, these three incredible aircraft represent an ever-evolving RAF that is consistently at the forefront of technology, making this coin a fitting tribute to the courageous work of the RAF, the men and women who have served over the last 100 years and those who will continue to serve in the future.
If you are interested…
You can be one of a limited number of collectors to own the Official RAF Centenary Five Pound Proof Coin.
The three iconic aircraft have been highlighted in 24-carat gold ink and this stunning coin has been struck to the highest Proof standard you can find on a collectable coin.