Humphrey Paget's unadopted sixpence design

Started by <k>, April 14, 2021, 09:50:05 AM

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<k>



King Edward VIII.




King Edward VIII ascended the throne on 20 January 1936. His would be a short reign, but he considered himself a moderniser, and the nation's coinage was a subject that particularly interested him. With the cooperation of the Royal Mint, he invited suggestions for the intended coin designs of his reign, and these were tendered by various artists. Humphrey Paget was one of those artists, and his now famous design of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, was eventually accepted for the halfpenny. Edward VIII's controversial decision to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson led to his abdication only weeks before his new coinage was due to be minted. However, Paget's splendid halfpenny design was implemented during the reign of George VI and was continued under the reign of the present Queen.
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<k>



Humphrey Paget's design for the half penny.




Graham Dyer, OBE, is currently Senior Research Curator of the Royal Mint. In 1972 he wrote the standard reference work on this subject, 'The proposed coinage of Edward King VIII', in which he stated: "A set of reverses prepared by Mr Paget early in 1936 had included for the half crown a design based on Sir Francis Drake's 'Golden Hind'."

Edward VIII had wanted to modernise the coinage, but Mr Dyer has written of Paget's Golden Hind design: "It is somewhat paradoxical that an old sailing ship should be thought of as a 'modern' design." Until then, the UK's coinage had hosted only heraldic designs or symbolic designs such as Britannia. While the Golden Hind was not a modern subject, certainly the style in which Paget presented it was modern, as was the idea of using realistic figurative designs rather than heraldic or symbolic ones. Harold Wilson-Parker's wren design, which was ultimately used on the farthing, was similarly realistic in style. These designs were probably influenced to some extent by Percy Metcalfe's ground-breaking set of animal designs for Ireland in 1928, commonly known as the Barnyard Series.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>



Half penny design by Humphrey Paget.

Image copyright of the Royal Mint Museum.




It is well known that Humphrey Paget's design of the Golden Hind was originally intended for the half crown. However, Graham Dyer's phrase 'A set of reverses prepared by Mr Paget' tantalisingly implied that Paget had produced other designs that were never minted, quite apart from his famous portrait of Edward VIII that was only produced on trial and pattern pieces.

The Royal Mint Museum kindly researched this question for me, and to my delight the staff found a previously unknown plaster of a sixpence design by Humphrey. They also turned up a plaster that featured a variation of his Golden Hind half crown design, which included the letters 'A.D.' around the year, 1937. These designs were executed in 1936, in the expectation that they would be issued in 1937. 'A.D.' stands for 'anno domini', meaning 'In the year of our Lord'. Why did Mr. Paget decide to emphasise the millennium in this way? Was he a firm Christian, or did he simply wish to fill more of the coin's blank space? Probably we shall never know.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>



Plaster model of Humphrey Paget's sixpence design.

Image copyright of the Royal Mint Museum.





Paget's sixpence design is entirely different in style. It sports two English roses, a Scottish thistle and an Irish shamrock – though sadly no symbol for Wales – and is firmly in the traditional camp. Even today, our ultra-modern bimetallic pound coin carries a similarly ultra-traditional design.

Paget's design also featured a large cross that split the design into quadrants, each of which housed one of the national floral symbols. The style of this cross referenced the long cross pennies that were issued from the years 1247 to 1279, so once again numismatic tradition was heavily in play here, in contrast to the modernism of the Golden Hind design. Paget might have been influenced by artist Eric Gill's unadopted designs of 1925, originally intended for the 1927 coinage, which had also incorporated the long cross. For its day, Paget's sixpence design was pleasingly spare in comparison to the rather ornate designs then in circulation, and in that respect it can be considered more modern in style.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>



Eric Gill's unadopted coin designs of 1925 also included the long cross.

Image copyright of The Design Museum.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

Unlike his halfpenny design, Paget's rather plain sixpence design is not outstanding in any way. It is interesting only in that he produced a rather traditional design, even if not as ornate as other such designs, before or since. More surprising is the fact that it lay apparently unseen in the archives of the Royal Mint Museum for over eighty years. One wonders what other such treasures are waiting to see the light of day.




See also: King Edward VIII: His Place in Numismatics.

Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.