Designing Change: Coins of Elizabeth II

Developed in collaboration with the Royal Mint

18 September 2008 – 22 February 2009
Room 69a        
Admission free

In April 2008 new reverse designs were introduced for all United Kingdom coins up to the £1 coin. These will eventually replace the designs that have been in use since the decimalisation of the coinage nearly 40 years ago. This small exhibition puts the new coin reverses into context, by looking at coin design during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Drawing on the rich collections of the British Museum and the Royal Mint, it will include artwork from the competition to obtain the new designs, as well as sketches, models and trials of previous designs.

One section of the exhibition focuses on the design of the decimal coins, by Christopher Ironside, which were introduced from 1968. Displaying unsuccessful ideas as well as the early sketches for the now-familiar coin designs, this part of the exhibition shows the process of developing these miniature works of art that we use every day.

The second section of the exhibition features the new reverses, and shows how much has changed in the way coins are designed over the last 40 years. As well as some of the entries to the public competition, this part of the display includes Matt Dent's original designs for the new reverses, trial pieces and models, and dies used to produce the new coins.

Bringing these two sections together, the central case of the display includes the four principal portraits of Elizabeth II used on United Kingdom coins. Sculpted at different stages in her 56-year reign, these are the images of the Queen seen by millions of people every day on the money in their pockets.

To coincide with the exhibition the Royal Mint has published a book, Designing Change: the art of coin design. It seeks to illuminate what lies behind the design of coins and celebrates the skill and creativity of artists and designers. The book will be available in the British Museum shop.

Notes to Editors

For further information or images please contact Katrina Whenham on 020 7323 8583 or kwhenham@britishmuseum.org