Christopher Ironside, designs for the United Kingdom two pence coin

AD 196668

These drawings are the work of Christopher Ironside, designer of the United Kingdom’s first decimal coins. They show some of the process behind the design of the two pence piece.

During the 1960s it was announced that the coins of the UK would be decimalised. The currency would change from a pound made up of 20 shillings (or 240 pence) to a pound made up of 100 pence. In 1961 a committee of inquiry was appointed to consider how the currency of the UK could be decimalised. This major event would have to involve redesigning the coinage.

It took Christopher Ironside two competitions and six years of work, from 1962 to 1968, before the final designs were announced to the public. His notebooks, drawings and plaster models, now in the British Museum, track this long process from the first idea for a coin, to its final appearance in people’s pockets and wallets from 1968.

Each design was carefully studied by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee before being made and allowed into circulation. With hundreds of millions of coins in use in the UK, designing coins provides an artist with a unique opportunity, as Ironside explained:

The work of a great many artists who are geniuses is never recognised and probably eventually disappears. But if one is a coin designer, one’s work lasts possibly long after death, everyone becomes familiar with it and it forms a small part of the history of the country for which it was designed, and one becomes famous. Not because one is a genius, or a saint, or a monster, but simply because one is a coin designer.”

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Dimensions

Width: 278.00 mm
Height: 192.00 mm

Museum number

CM 2006,0601.181, 2006,0601.179

Purchased with help from the British Museum Friends

Location

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