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Royal Mint launches one-kilo Olympic coin

— January 2012

Associated media

Sir Anthony Caro RA and the gold kilogram coin with Tom Phillips RA and the silver kilogram coin

Two of Britain's leading artists have designed massive commemorative coins - but you will need a big purse!

Rosalind Ormiston weighs up the results

The first-ever one-kilogram gold coin created by the Royal Mint has been launched in honour of Britain’s hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.  The coin, containing one kilo of fine gold, has been produced in a limited edition of 60 on sale at £100,000 each, with a face value of £1000. The gold coin’s design was created by the eminent sculptor Sir Anthony Caro RA. Inspired by how the Olympic and Paralympic Games push the mind and body of each competitor toward their goals, he chose to include the victor’s laurel wreath as the ancient symbol of sporting achievement. Framed in the laurel wreath Sir Anthony highlights equipment used in four of the modern era Olympic sports: boxing, weightlifting, athletics and football. The official Olympic logo is included as a tiny stud at the centre of the wreath.

A second one-kilogram coin, made of silver in a limited edition of 2,012 and on sale for £3,000 with a face value of £500, is designed by Sir Anthony’s fellow Royal Academician, Tom Phillips RA. His design focuses on ‘team spirit’ as a unifying force of the Olympic ideal. On the outer edge the words ‘Unite our dreams to make the world a team of teams’ surround an inner circle of bunting-style pennant flags that look like flames, and draw attention to the words ‘XXX Olympiad’ at centre. The official 2012 logo is not easy to spot until one sees it as a ‘full stop’ on the coin’s outer edge. Each artist was given free choice over the design content of the gold and silver coins.

For the Royal Mint this has been a successful enterprise, not only in the creation of two unique works of art but also because by using a special press and production system it has achieved the highest-ever sculpted relief on a coin struck by the Mint. The one-kilo coins are UK legal tender and the design of each coin was personally approved by Her Majesty, The Queen. Each coin features her effigy, designed by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, on the obverse. Whilst the weight and denomination of both coins make them difficult to circulate as legal tender there is a waiting list of collectors. Buyers will receive the coins in special presentation boxes with a certificate of authentication. Sir Anthony has personally signed and numbered the certificates of the 60 gold coins.

Sir Anthony Caro, RA

Sir Anthony Caro OM, CBE (b.1924), is considered to be the most influential sculptor in the development of British sculpture of the 20th century. Born in New Malden, south-west London, he attended Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1942–4, to study engineering; then Regent Street Polytechnic, London, between 1946–7, to study sculpture and he also studied sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools from 1947–52. After working as an assistant to Henry Moore in the 1950s, a meeting in the 1960s with the American sculptor David Smith led to Caro’s abandonment of figurative work, to focus on sculptures constructed by welding or bolting pre-fabricated metal pieces together. He came to public attention in Britain in 1963 with an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, where his large, painted abstract sculptures, placed at ground level, engaged spectators’ attention and pushed forward the development of three-dimensional abstract art.  Sir Anthony’s works, in steel, bronze, silver, lead, stoneware, wood and paper, span six decades. He was knighted in 1987 and in the year 2000 he became the first British sculptor since Henry Moore to be awarded the Order of Merit.

 Tom Phillips, RA

Tom Phillips RA, (b.1937), is one of Great Britain’s most renowned artists. Born in Clapham, London, he became interested in art whilst at school. In 1954, at the age of seventeen, he exhibited paintings for the first time, in an art show on the railings of the Thames Embankment. In 1957 he became a founding member of the Philharmonia Chorus. He attended St Catherine College, Oxford in 1958 to read English and studied at Camberwell School of Art in 1961 under Frank Auerbach. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1984. In a career spanning 50 years Tom Phillips has won many awards in the fields of painting, sculpture and portraiture, and writing and composing. Portraiture includes Samuel Beckett, Dame Iris Murdoch, Sir Roy Jenkins and The Monty Pythons. He also creates artist’s books and is best known for A Humument, published in 1973 with four revised editions featuring new versions of selected pages. The fifth revised edition will be published in May 2012 in honour of the occasion of his 75th birthday.


Rosalind Ormiston
Independent art historian

Media credit: © David Parry/PA Wire

Background info

The Royal Mint

The Royal Mint was established over 1,000 years ago. For 500 years from the late 13th century onwards it was located in the Tower of London, before moving in 1812 to new premises on Tower Hill. In 1967 the Royal Mint moved to its current location in Llantrisant, Pontyclun, South Wales. The Royal Mint has a history of commemorating national events with special coins. To mark the occasion of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, to be held in Great Britain, the Royal Mint has created a range of official 2012 commemorative coins. Perhaps the most popular and most easily obtainable is the 50 pence piece coin, with Olympic sports commemorated in 29 different designs. The first Olympic coins can be traced to 480BC, when they were introduced as commemorative souvenirs in Ancient Greece. More information about the history of the Mint is given in The Royal Mint : An Illustrated History by G.P. Dyer.

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