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Why the British Seychelles' designs were so boring

Started by <k>, March 09, 2011, 04:24:09 PM

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The British-ruled Seychelles started issuing its own coins in 1939. The reverse designs on the lower denominations were very plain, and obvious copies, apart from the country name, of the designs on the Mauritius coins. When you consider the beauty of the Seychelles, and the wildlife with which it is graced, you wonder why these weren't considered as material for designs. This is all the more apparent when you consider the exotic designs that were eventually produced by the independent Seychelles from 1976 onwards.

I was leafing through the Royal Mint's annual reports for the 1930s recently, and I discovered the reason. The report in question stated that some thought was given to producing designs of the local wildlife and vegetation for the coins of the Seychelles. However, it continued, those species most associated with the Seychelles had already been used on other British possessions: a palm tree appeared on the reverses of some of the British West Africa coins, whilst Percy Metcalfe had produced a turtle design for the Fiji sixpence.

I have two objections to the reasoning of the Royal Mint on this matter:

1] With a little imagination, some other species could have been considered: the modern Seychelles have chosen a crab, a black parrot, a conch shell and various fish species to adorn their modern coins;

2] Surely it would have been possible to use a turtle or a palm tree but give it a very different artistic and stylistic treatment on the coin? Nowadays several different circulation coins depict zebras and rhinos for instance. Admittedly, it has reached a point where I have wondered, on seeing yet another rhino design, why do these countries not choose some original animal for a change, that has never appeared on a circulation coin, such as a hyena or a serval? This led to a topic of its own: Which animals would you like to see on coins?.

All in all, I am sure the Royal Mint could have tried harder. They did only slightly better for Mauritius, who at least got a red deer and an attractive coat of arms on their coins.

With regard to the selection of designs for the UK decimal coins in the late 1960s, I read a piece in one of the annual reports that stated several members of the public had wanted "a series of creatures, such as appears on the decimal coins of Australia". It went on to claim that the Australian species depicted were at least native to that country, whereas the British could claim the red grouse only as a truly native species, which was not shared with other countries in Europe. That argument reeks to me of narrow-mindedness, on a par with the "pure Aryan" theory. Man or beast, we're all migrants in one way or another. Where did the Anglo-Saxons come from originally? If the "native" theory was applied, then we would never depict any humans either on our British coins. Equally, birds are thought to have evolved from dinosaurs. Did the red grouse's dinosaur ancestors live in Britain - or Gondwanaland? 

Fortunately, our modern mints and policy makers are rather more enlightened.

Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.


Ummm, the palm tree most prevalent on the Seychelles, the coco de mer, occurs only on the Seychelles. They must have thought something like "a palm tree is a palm tree is a palm tree and they grow in Brighton".

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