On Friday 10th October the new ‘100 Poppies’ coin was released, and the distinctive design has been turning heads.
Commemorative coins have been issued in support of the Royal British Legion since 2008, some of them even struck in the famous poppy shape. But this year’s coin is a little different.
100 Poppies for 100 years
As 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, digital artist Chris Lloyd wanted to subtly allude to the poignancy of the occasion. He came up with countless designs, but nothing quite captured the moment in the way he wanted.
I asked Chris what gave him the inspiration to produce such a memorable coin after struggling for so long:
“It was only when I thought back to that moving part of the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance, when hundreds of poppies fall from the ceiling, that inspiration struck. I decided that the best way to represent the centenary anniversary would be with 100 poppies, one for each year. I even counted them by hand, marking each one, to make sure the right number are there!”
The only text on the obverse of the coin – ‘Lest we forget’ – taken from Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen – serves as a starkly poignant reminder.
A coin for everyone, proof, silver and gold
The new coins are being made available in a range of metals, to suit any collection. From a Proof condition £5 coin, right up an impressive 22 Carat Gold edition, all of the limited edition coins are available now.
A donation is made from the sale of each coin to the Royal British Legion. So those who secure their coins will know they own an important piece of history, and they’re helping the Legion provide financial, social and emotional support to all who have served and are currently serving in the British Armed Forces and their families.
Get your coin in time for Remembrance Day
The 2014 ‘100 Poppies’ £5 Proof Coin is available to order now.
Proud supporters of The Royal British Legion.
I was lucky enough to be in Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
For years veterans have travelled to Normandy on the 6th June to remember their comrades who never made it back from the beaches.
However for many of the veterans in attendance, it would be their last visit, as this year’s commemorations are the last to be officially marked by the Normandy Veterans Association which is disbanding in November.
I had previously visited the area ten years earlier for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, when my family and I had taken my grandfather over to collect his 60th anniversary medal.
This time around, everything was on a much larger scale, there were events all along the Normandy coast and politicians and dignitaries from all over the world would be in attendance. With so many events and ceremonies taking place it was impossible to attend them all. Our first stop was Colleville-Montgomery, where a ceremony was to take place at Monty’s statue.
At 11am the veterans marched in with standards held high, the response they got from the crowd and townspeople was amazing.
After taking their seats, the Mayor of Colleville-Montgomery addressed the crowd and relayed his thanks to the veterans.
Next were speeches by George Batts and David Baines of the Normandy Veterans Association.
The following day we headed for Arromanches, site of Gold Beach, where British troops arrived on D-Day. When we arrived the town was packed, it seemed like the whole of Normandy had come out to show their gratitude to the veterans!
After a late lunch we made our way down to the square in front of the D-Day museum for another ceremony.
Unless you had a pass it really was standing room only, luckily my pass had arrived from the Ministry of Defence just a few days earlier and I headed for the seating area in the middle of the square.
Before the ceremony started, the crowds were entertained by flypasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The planes looked spectacular with their distinctive D-Day markings.
Around 5pm, the Brass band started and the veterans marched once more into the square.
This was followed by a speeches by the Mayor of Arromanches and the Duke of Cambridge. Although it was a memorial service, the mood was upbeat and included sing-alongs like “We’ll meet again” and “Auld Lang Syne”.
We will remember them
As the ceremony came to a close, it dawned on me how lucky I was to be there for this historic event and to be able to show my appreciation to these brave men. And although the NVA will not be in attendance in the future, the people of Normandy, the family of veterans will continue to honour the memory of these men in the years to come.
To mark the 70th anniversary we are proud to announce we have worked with the Normandy Veterans Association to produce an exclusive brand new limited edition set of commemorative covers personally signed by 12 Normandy veterans.
NOW SOLD OUT
How an Italian engraver produced the most British coin of all time
Across the world, one coin is seen to epitomise all that it is British in a way that compares with nothing else. That coin is the Gold Sovereign. And at the centre of its international reputation is a quintessentially British design – St. George slaying the dragon.
Yet it is not, as you may first think, the work of a classical British artist, but instead that of the second son of an Italian federal court judge, who only came to England just two years before his portrayal of St. George and the Dragon first adorned a British coin in 1817.
In fact well before his arrival in England in 1815, Pistrucci was already well established as a leading gem engraver and producer of fine cameos amongst European high society. He rapidly made an impression on his arrival in London, winning the approval of the well-known antiquarian William Richard Hamilton.
Despite having no coin or medal experience, he was quickly commissioned by the Master of the Mint Wellesley Pole, brother of the Duke of Wellington, to produce a new portrait of George III as part of the Great Recoinage. His model, created in the unusual medium of red jasper, was re-engraved by Thomas Wyon for its final use on coinage losing, in Pistrucci’s eyes at least, much of the detail.
However, his work was clearly of sufficient quality to impress Pole, who followed up with a commission for the design that has forever since been the synonymous with the name Benedetto Pistrucci – St. George and the Dragon.
A design nearly lost the annals of history
Yet within just eight years it looked like Pistrucci’s design might disappear forever, as the Royal Mint changed the Sovereign reverse design to an heraldic shield, which was to remain in place for the next 46 years.
It was only a drive to improve the design quality of the coinage, led by new Deputy Master, Charles Fremantle that saw the re-introduction of St. George in 1871. However, both reverse designs were struck concurrently until 1887 when the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that “by tradition and recommended by the great beauty of the design” Pistrucci’s design should once again appear on all Gold Sovereigns.
“The chief coin of the world”
By the mid-1850s the “new” Gold Sovereign had become a coin of true international status. Indeed an official list identifies no fewer than thirty-six colonies and dependencies in which the gold sovereign or half sovereign was recognised as legal tender.
More surprisingly, so great had become the reputation of the British sovereign that it was also in regular use in other countries outside the Empire, including Brazil, Egypt and Portugal.
However, it was the opening of the Sydney branch of the Royal Mint in 1855 following the discovery of gold in Australia that really marked the international growth of the Sovereign. Initially authorised to strike Sovereign’s to a different design, in 1871 Sydney finally started to strike coins of the same designs as the UK (just in time for the Pistrucci revival), only identified by a small “S” mintmark.
Further Australian Royal Mint branches followed in Melbourne in 1871 and Perth in 1899, before the Mint’s reach extended to other Empire countries with branches opening in Ottowa (1899), Bombay (1918) and Pretoria (1923) – all producing Gold Sovereigns.
It is no wonder that the eminent economist of the early 20th Century, Sir John Clapham, proclaimed the Gold sovereign as “the chief coin of the world”.
A worldwide modern icon – good enough for 007
The last international sovereign was struck in Pretoria in 1932. By then the international interest in Gold Sovereign, which started in Victorian times was well and truly established. And it is a reputation that continues right up to today.
Ian Fleming chose to equip James Bond with 50 Gold Sovereigns in his attaché case in the From Russia with Love, whilst Special Forces are still believed to carry Gold Sovereigns, as an emergency international currency.
In 2012 the Royal Mint once again authorised the striking of the St. George and the Dragon Gold Sovereign outside the UK under licence in India, so great is its popularity amongst the people there.
“The Royal Sovereign 1489 – 1989”, Ed GP Dyer
“A New History of the Royal Mint”, Christopher Edgar Challis
The Royal Mint Museum Website
The 2014 Gold Sovereign is available in a limited edition DateStamp™ Presentation of just 995 pieces –now sold out.