Diameter: 18 cm
Purchased with help from the British Museum Friends
CM 2006,0601.150, 2006,0601.222
Christopher Ironside, plaster model and sketch of a design for the United Kingdom five pence coin
For hundreds of years, the coinage of the UK had been based on one pound made up of 240 pence, or 20 shillings. By the 1960s, there had long been discussions about the possibility of simplifying the currency by making it decimal, so that one pound would be made up of 100 pence.
These discussions led to a committee of inquiry being appointed to consider how the currency of the UK could be decimalised. This major event would have to involve redesigning the coinage, but it was also an opportunity to change the shapes, sizes and metals of the coins used by millions of UK businesses and individuals.
Even before the committee reported, the design process had begun, but was kept secret because the plans to decimalise had not yet been announced to the public. A number of artists were asked to develop designs for the new decimal coins, including Christopher Ironside.
Working in secret, Ironside worked up each design from sketches to the final drawings. Once the final design had been agreed, Ironside made large plaster models so the Royal Mint Advisory Committee could see the designs in three dimensions.