[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Britain’s Royal Mint is changing the shape of the UK’s pound coin, replacing the round design with a new 12-sided coin. The Mint regularly changes the designs on its coins; and today it has released the last ever round pound – with a picture of four royal beasts designed by the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron.
Bishop Gregory, a former deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion, is a keen amateur artist and coin collector. His design features four royal beasts from the constituent nations of the United Kingdom: the Welsh dragon, the English lion, the Scottish unicorn and a stag for Northern Ireland. The beasts surround the St Edward’s crown – the symbol of Britain’s monarchy.
Bishop Gregory’s design will feature on commemorative coins – the 25th, and last, design to feature on the round pound – and won’t enter general circulation. Collectors looking to snap up a piece of history will need to fork out £10 for one of the last round pounds; which comes in a special presentation case.
Those with a little more cash to spare can buy one of 7,500 limited edition 925 sterling silver round pound coins at a cost of £50; or for £100, they can purchase one of just 3,000 limited edition 925 sterling silver Piedfort coins – twice the weight and thickness of one of the standard silver coins.
The ultimate collector may be tempted by a 22 carat gold version of the coin – the Royal Mint has struck a limited edition of just 500 of these, at a cost of £895. But if you’re tempted to buy one of those, be sure to keep it safe – it will be the same colour as the standard £1 coin and mixing the two up could prove costly.
“I am absolutely delighted and proud that I have designed the very last commemorative round pound coin,” Bishop Gregory said. “As it is a non-circulating edition of the coin it will always be a very rare coin and, I hope, treasured.
“In my design, the four heraldic beasts are equal – each has its quarter of the coin. It’s traditional but also modern as there is quite a strong sense of line. There is also some cross-over – parts of each beast cross over into the next. The dragon’s wing, for example, crosses into the lion’s quarter. That makes it more dynamic and also symbolic as it shows four separate nations, all an equal part, yet interlinked as they protect Britain’s sovereignty, the Crown.”
In addition to being able to purchase Bishop Gregory’s round pound from the Royal Mint, people can also have a go at making their own pound, by striking a coin at the new Royal Mint Experience museum in Llantrisant, South Wales. The centre opens on 18 May and visitors will be able to mint the coin until the end of the year.
Bishop Gregory Cameron’s designs for the UK’s last round pound; together with the dies used to strike the commemorative coins..
Photo: Diocese of St Asaph
“The very last circulating round pound was struck by The Royal Mint in December 2015, so that makes this commemorative 2016 ‘farewell’ pound all the more special,” the Royal Mint’s director of commemorative coins, Anne Jessopp said. “Throughout 2016, visitors to our new ‘Royal Mint Experience’ visitor centre will be able to see Bishop Gregory’s powerful royal beasts design when they choose to strike their very own £1 coin during their visit.”
Bishop Gregory has been interested in heraldry since childhood and has previously designed coat of arms for the Church in Wales and for the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth. He began his ministry in the church in 1983 which, fittingly, was the year the £1 coin was first introduced.
“As a child I was fascinated by coins. In those days you never knew what pennies you would have in your change,” Bishop Gregory said. “Some showed the head of our Queen but others could be the head of George VI or George V, Edward VII or even Queen Victoria. Pennies were very cheap so people were happy to give them to me.
“However, it was the Churchill Crown coin which really got me interested in collecting and I have now got all the crown coins from 1890 to the present day.
“I am also fascinated by the older coins and my must-see one is an Alexander III Tetradrachm. It’s amazing to hold it and think that it was minted 2,500 years ago. How did it survive? Who used it? Each coin has a unique history and journey.”
Bishop Gregory’s involvement with The Royal Mint began in 2014 when he heard about the competition to design the new £1 coin. He entered three designs; two based on the flowers of the four nations - the leek of Wales, the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland and the flax flower of Northern Ireland – and at the last minute a design based on Royal beasts.
One of his flower designs was shortlisted for the new coin but didn’t win. Instead, four flowers – an English rose, a Welsh leek, a Scottish thistle and an Irish shamrock – emerging from a royal coronet will be the image on the first new 12-sided coin when they are released in 2017. That design was created by David Pearce, a 15-year-old pupil at Queen Mary’s Grammar School in Walsall, West Midlands, who beat off 6,000 other entries in a design competition..
“I love heraldry because there is so much romance and mystery in it and designing the coin was a good opportunity to explore that further,” Bishop Gregory said. “The images are highly stylised and imaginative as they are symbolic. The most challenging part was the stag as I hadn’t attempted that before and as people have a clear idea of what they look like, it had to be realistic.
- Bishop Gregory’s commemorative last round pound can be purchased online from the Royal Mint.