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To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Christopher Ironside (11 July 1913–13 July 1992), the designer of the UK’s first decimal coinage issued in 1971, The Royal Mint has struck a commemorative 50p piece for 2013 which features one of his most accomplished pieces of numismatic art that has, until now, never appeared on the United Kingdom’s coinage.
Christopher Ironside’s design of Britannia was adopted for the 50p piece at the time of decimalization, but among the other designs he submitted was a version of the Royal Arms. This design was liked so much by members of The Royal Mint Advisory Committee that trial pieces of the design were made in the hope that one day a use would be found for it. Its appearance in 2013 is a fitting tribute to Ironside’s art and the Royal Mint expect that it will be eagerly collected by 50p coin collectors.
In 1962, years before decimalization was announced, Ironside worked on new coin designs from the halfpenny to the 10p coin. This took place in total secrecy; in fact, it was six years before Ironside’s designs were selected. Now, in honour of his birth, his Royal Arms – a design admired but never used – has finally appeared on a UK 50p coin. In its original form, the coin used the designation NEW PENCE (as the new coinage was described at the time) but this has been amended to FIFTY PENCE for 2013.
Christopher Ironside’s widow, Jean Ironside, recalls an article written in 1969 in which Christopher said:
The work of a great many artists who are geniuses is never recognized and probably eventually disappears. But if one is a coin designer, one’s work lasts possibly long after death, everyone becomes familiar with it and it forms a small part of the history of the country for which it was designed.
The obverse of the UK 50p coin features the current portrait of Her Majesty The Queen by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS and the year date 2013. Presentation coins can be purchased from the Royal Mint.
The Royal Mint creates special coin designs to commemorate many occasions. In 2012 there were coins celebrating Dickens’ bicentenary and the Olympics; later in 2013 there will be coins marking the 150th anniversary of London Underground.