Proposed UK Coin Specification Changes, 1994

Started by Galapagos, April 26, 2009, 11:27:36 AM

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2 pound coin options, 1994.

In 1990 the Royal Mint released a new reduced size 5p coin. In 1992, a new reduced size 10p coin was released. And in 1994, the Royal Mint published a pamphlet proposing further changes to the coinage: a smaller, lighter 50p and a circulating two pound coin.

You can see both the two pound coin options illustrated below. This image is taken from the pamphlet. A modern two pound coin had first been produced in 1986 for the Commonwealth Games. It was 28.4mm in diameter and struck in nickel-brass and had a weight of almost 16g. This variety of the coin was considered primarily as a collectors' item and not intended for general circulation.

The first option was to have a circulating coin of the same diameter and metal as the commemorative coin (see above), but thinner and lighter, with a weight of 12g and a thickness of 2.7mm.

Option two was to have a bimetallic coin with a cupro-nickel centre and a nickel-brass outer ring. It would be 11g in weight and have a thickness of 2.45mm.

Both options would have a milled edge and an edge inscription. The design (not described, but I believe the ship is the Mayflower) was for illustration purposes only, said the pamphlet. However, in 1995 the Royal Mint put the bimetallic coin illustrated on sale in a special package for 20 pounds. I ordered two. I have never been able to find out who created the ship design.

The pamphlet stressed that no decisions had been made as yet and invited the public to write in with their views. It added that one option was to retain the system current in 1994 - i.e. to make no changes at all.

My own reaction at the time was that a two pound coin would be very welcome. The one pound coin has a thickness of 3.15mm and a weight of 9.5g. Receiving four of those in change, from a five pound note, made for a heavy pocket. I thought the bimetallic version of the two pound coin looked very smart, so I was in favour of this. I also liked the Mayflower design on the coin, being a fan of ship designs. Unfortunately, that design was never adopted, though I do still have the two trials that I bought of it.

The bimetallic two pound coin (with a different reverse design) was first released in late 1997, bearing Raphael Maklouf's effigy of the Queen. However, there were problems with the electronic signature in vending machines, so it was briefly withdrawn and reintroduced in 1998.

From 1998, the two pound coin carried the Ian Rank Broadley effigy of the Queen. The belief grew up among the British public that the 1997 version of the coin ("the Queen with necklace", as it was popularly called) was very valuable. This was not true, as 13 million had been issued. However, this myth persisted into the early years of the new millennium, and coin forums often received questions from the non-collecting public about its value.


50p Options 1994.jpg

50 pence coin options, 1994.

The other change considered by the Royal Mint was to make the 50p coin smaller and lighter. In 1994, the 50p coin had a diameter of 30mm, a weight of 13.5g, and a thickness of 2.5mm.

The smaller seven-sided coin (illustrated below) would have a weight of 8.5g, a diameter of 27.5mm, and a thickness of 1.9mm. The round version of the 50p (illustrated below) would have specifications of: weight, 8.5g; diameter, 27.5mm; thickness, 1.94mm.

I have always been very fond of the heptagonal format of the 50p, which is also perfect for commemorative issues, and so I did not want to see a round 50p. I thought it could be made smaller still, at maybe 26mm in diameter (the 10p is 24.5mm in diameter). Losing only 2.5mm was not much of a change.

A final option was to make no change at all to the 50p of 1994 - but it was too big and heavy and so definitely had to change. All these options for changing the 50p had of course first been presented in late 1985 and then elaborated in a pamphlet of 1987 (see my topic on that pamphlet here), so they came as no surprise to me. The only surprise was that it took the Royal Mint 12 years to think about these changes before implementing them.

The new smaller seven-sided 50p was eventually released in 1997, without any problems.



Very interesting. Together with other threads, this forms a vivid picture of the British Royal Mint trying to find less weighty coin solutions. From what you say, I get the impression that the public wanted as little change as possible (doesn't it always) but did want lighter coins. Ah, why didn't anybody think of hollow coins ::)

As for the ship, it may or may not be the Mayflower. The pictures on the net I found are of very different ships, sometimes on the same page. The differences concentrate on:

- some pictures show the poop deck and the forecastle at equal height, on others, the poop is higher than the bow.
- the bowsprit is shown with one square sail, one or two latin sails
- the aft mast is shown with a square or a latin sail or without sail

As an illustration, I am attaching a picture of what is supposed to be the Mayflower at the same angle, but sailing at a different wind. It shows a low poop and square hind rigging and a latin sail on the bow. That's not the same as on the pattern (though the rigging shown may allow for one latin sail on the bow). Other pictures from the net are more in agreement with the picture on the pattern. Maybe the most you can say is that it's a 17th century Western European merchantman. As such, it's a pretty stick in the mud kind of design that was already used 400 years ago on Dutch schelling pieces.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


I don't have an old halfpenny immediately to hand to compare, but could it not be the Golden Hind(e)?  That would have been a more logical choice, I would have thought.



It would make more sense from a symbolic point of view. The rigging fits fine. However, the Golden Hind was a warship and the design shows at most five, probably four gunports and two decks, while the Golden Hind had seven gunports and a single deck. There's also the point of the missing decorative border. It is quite clear on the modern Golden Hind, docked at London's Southwark.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


The Mayflower was carrying religious fanatics and future rebels who should have had a proper hanging away from England, the Golden Hind was carrying fine stolen treasure to England. Also, the Golden Hind figured on the halfpennies todays sentimental ... uhhh ... civil servants remember fondly.

Quote from: The Squadron of Simpletons on May 07, 2009, 09:33:35 PM
Surely he's an alien from outer space? What about his knowledge of the TV series "Big Brother", in all its international variety?

AHHH! You found my weak spot! I don't even know how to switch on my own TV! I guess I must be an alien.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

BC Numismatics

The ship in the design in the first posting could also be the Cutty Sark.

It would have been interesting if the 50 Pence coin had been changed to a round coin.

Fiji has done exactly that as part of changing their coins from the 5c. upwards.




It cannot possibly be the much lamented (at least by me) Cutty Sark, because that is a clipper.

You will find that she has a modern hull, much higher and sleeker masts, better rigging, much more sail and Latin sails only on the sprit.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


UK 1994 2 pound trial.jpg

UK 1994 2 pound trial.

I found a photo of the monometallic version of the trial.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.


Golden Hind.jpg

Quote from: coffeetime on March 16, 2011, 08:43:00 PMThe design shows a ship - I don't know which ship it is meant to be.

I think it is the Golden Hind ±1580, an English galleon famously under the command of Sir Francis Drake. The stern is not like the reconstruction now in the Thames at Southwark, but that may just be because there is not enough known about what it looked like on the real thing. It is close enough to this painting.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.



The Golden Hind on the pre-decimal halfpenny.

The ship on the 2 pound trial coin of 1994.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.


The major differences are the hull and gun ports. The older design looks schematic, more medallic, less realistic. The dimension of the topsails looks more historically correct on the pattern. The general pattern of the rigging is the same.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


Another topic I'm a latecomer to...

Unlike the late 80s review, I was actually aware of this 1994 review thanks to a whole page being devoted to it in a 1994 issue of the Royal Mint Coin Club Bulletin.  I'll have to check it out as I still have it.  I think it may have mentioned what the ship on the £2 was.  Newspapers of the time reported the proposed changes as well.  I have a cutting from The Mail On Sunday.  Naturally the Mail got it slightly wrong, reporting that a bi-metal 50p coin was also an option.



Royal Mint Coin Club Bulletin issue 53, Winter edition 1994.

It dedicated a page to this review.

It confirms the £2 trial piece design as being the Mayflower.


The Royal Mint Trial looks like the New Zealand bimetallic 50-cent coin of 1994.