The Decimal Coins of the Sterling Area

Started by <k>, November 01, 2011, 10:30:20 PM

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Country/territory name.

You will notice that Guernsey, Gibraltar, and St Helena and Ascension always place the country/territory name on the obverse of their circulation coins, while  Jersey always places it on the reverse.

From 1971 until 1980, the place name, "ISLE OF MAN", appeared on the reverse of the Manx circulation coins. Since 1980, it has always appeared on the obverse. However, the circulation pound coin retained the practice of showing "ISLE OF MAN" on the reverse until 1986. In 1987, the pound coin showed the Manx version of the name only: "Ellan Vannin" - on the REVERSE. After 1988 it fell into line with the other denominations.

For years, the Falkland Islands placed its name on the reverse of its circulation coins.

Since 2019, the Falkland Islands' territory name appears on both sides of its circulation coins.
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Design series.

The UK has had two design series since decimalisation:

1] The Heraldry series, 1968 to 2007, created by Christopher Ironside.

2] The Jigsaw series, 2008 to date, by Matthew Dent.

Dent's series is also a heraldic series, but it uses only the Royal Shield of arms. The series does not use numerals for the denominations but spells them out in words, and the fifty pence is turned "upside down", so that the pointed tip appears at the bottom of the design. The set was controversial because Britannia did not appear on the coins for the first time in centuries.

The Falkland Islands have had only one design series, from 1974 to date. It depicts the local wildlife.

St Helena and Ascension have had one main design series since 1984, depicting the local wildlife, but in 1998 they changed the designs on the reverse of the five and ten pence coins; this coincided with the reduction in size of those coins.

Jersey has had two design series. Their first series, from 1968 to 1982, showed the Jersey coat of arms on the reverse of all the coins. The second, from 1983 to date, depicts Jersey's local landmarks.

Guernsey has had two design series. Their first series, from 1968 to 1984, showed local wildlife, a windmill, and the ducal cap. The second series, from 1985 to date, coincided with the adoption of the effigy of Queen Elizabeth on the obverse of their coins, which previously had shown only the coat of arms. The series depicts local Guernsey industries.

Gibraltar has had, arguably, eight design series, depending on your point of view.

1] Local wildlife and landmarks, issued from 1988 to 2003.

2] In 2004, Gibraltar celebrated the 300th anniversary of British administration. To commemorate this, Gibraltar issued a one-year circulation set of special designs, depicting themes and episodes from its history.

3] In 2005 Gibraltar continued the same themes as in 2004. However, most of the designs of 2004 were actually placed on different denominations in 2005. This is a phenomenon I have not noticed on the coins of any other country or territory.

In 2010, Gibraltar issued amended versions of the 1998 penny partridge design and the 2005 five pence Barbary ape design.

4] In 2014 Gibraltar began circulating a new design series.

5] In 2017 Gibraltar issued a circulation set commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 referendum.

6] In 2018 Gibraltar issued a circulation set commemorating New Calpe House.

7] In 2019 Gibraltar issued a circulation set commemorating the 2019 Island Games.

8] In 2020 Gibraltar issued a circulation set featuring local landmarks.

The Isle of Man has had nine design series.

1] The Christopher Ironside series, 1971 to 1975: Manx culture: history, landmarks and wildlife.

2] The Barry Stanton series, 1976 to 1979, with some similar themes to the previous set.

3] The Leslie Lindsay series, 1980 to 1983. The themes were similar to those of the previous two sets, but the designs were heavily stylised.

4] The Quincentenary of the College of Arms series, 1984 to 1987.

5] The Technology series, 1988 to 1995.

6] The Sport series, 1996 to 1999.

7] The Millennium series, 2000 to 2003.

8] The Landmarks series, 2004 to date.

9] The series issued in 2017, mainly of Manx animals.
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A single currency or not?

Unlike the euro, the coinages of the sterling area do not form a single currency.

The UK pound sterling is an independent floating currency, supported by a central bank.

Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, along with The Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and St Helena and Ascension each maintain their own separate pound, each of which is maintained at par with the UK pound sterling. They manage their currencies through a currency board. Unlike a central bank, a currency board does not create an independent currency, but holds reserves of another currency, against which they back their own currency. The three territories back their individual currencies with the UK pound sterling, which is known as the anchor currency. Instead of using the UK currency directly, they keep their UK sterling reserves in interest-bearing accounts that help to pay for their currency boards. While their own banknotes and coins, with their own local designs, circulate throughout their territories, their reserves are busy earning interest.

The Irish pound was an independent currency, supported by a central bank, but pegged to the UK pound sterling at a ratio of one to one.

To learn more about currency boards, currency unions, national currencies and dollarisation, click on the link below:

There are only four basic currency systems in the world

Previously I wrote that Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man were in currency union with the UK. That was wrong, however.  The crown dependencies like to keep their financial affairs opaque, but in 2014, during the debate about which currency an independent Scotland might use, the UK Chancellor, George Osborne, pointed out that the Channel Isles and the Isle of of Man ran currency boards.

Due to the lack of transparency of these systems, the monetary systems of the crown dependencies are "currency-board-like" - even if they are not orthodox currency boards.
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Status and usage of the coinages.

Only UK coinage is legal tender in the UK. Nevertheless, coins from the Crown Dependencies, and from the British overseas territories that also use their own pound currency, often do slip into circulation in the UK, because they are of similar specification to UK coins and all carry the Queen's portrait on the obverse. Unless you look closely, you are unlikely to notice the difference, and not all shop assistants or members of the public are even aware that they are not British. A few years ago, I saw a post on a UK coin forum by a member of the public who admitted that he did not collect coins. However, he wanted to know why the five pence coin he had received in change had "a picture of a monkey on it". If he had read the obverse legend, he would have noticed the word "GIBRALTAR", but he had not, and he was astounded to learn that Gibraltar issued its own versions of our UK coins.

UK coinage also circulates freely and is freely accepted in the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, and St Helena and Ascension. This makes sense: technically these seven different coinages are part of seven different currencies, but the currencies are all equal in value. But again, only UK coinage is legal tender in the UK. Surprisingly, the overseas territories do not accept each other's coins or banknotes. I once read a post on a St Helena forum, by someone from St Helena, who complained that when he had visited the Falkland Islands, the Falklanders had refused to accept his St Helena notes and coins.

In the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey both freely accept each other's coins and banknotes, which circulate freely on both islands. I have read that Channel Island coins and notes are accepted on the Isle of Man, and vice versa, but I do not know whether this is true. I have visited Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, but I never found any Channel Islands money in circulation on the Isle of Man, or vice versa - though even if they do accept each other's coins and notes, the chances of finding Manx money in your change in the Channel Islands, or vice versa, would be very slim.

In the UK, pound coins and two pound coins are heavily used. Each of the Crown Dependencies, unlike the UK, still issues its own one pound note, in addition to its own pound coin and two pound coin. In practice, the islanders prefer pound notes to coins, so it is unusual to find any pound or two pound coins in circulation there, and when you do find them, they are usually from the UK. By contrast, the British overseas territories that use their own pound currrency do not issue their own one pound notes these days.

Conclusion: in the euro zone, you can spend your euros anywhere. In the sterling area, things are not so simple.
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The Clark portrait.

In March 2015 the UK adopted a new effigy of the Queen, designed by Jody Clark.

It replaced the Rank-Broadley portrait, which had been in use since 1998.

So far, no other country, crown dependency or British overseas territory has adopted this portrait.
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A new type of pound coin.

The UK announced in 2014 that it would adopt a new bimetallic 12-sided pound coin. The coin would be counterfeit-proof. It was issued into circulation in March 2017. 

The Falkland Islands aims to issue its own version of the coin in 2021. Gibraltar and the Isle of Man have in the past confirmed that they want a 12-sided 1 pound coin but have not confirmed the likely year of issuance.

Jersey and Guernsey still have no plans for the release of a new 1 pound coin. Saint Helena and Ascension will consider any changes at the next minting of their 1 pound coin.

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To read about the decimal coinage of each territory, dependency or country of the sterling area, click on the links below:

1] The UK

2] Jersey

3] Guernsey

4] The Isle of Man

5] The Falkland Islands

6] Gibraltar
7] St. Helena and Ascension

To post comments, criticisms, amendments etc. regarding this topic, please click on the link below:

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See also:

Coins of Britain's uninhabited overseas territories.

The pound: predecimal to decimal design continuity.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.