The Britannia is a British gold bullion coin manufactured by the Royal Mint since 1987. The Royal Mint produces this coin in its refinery at Llantrisant, South Wales, where the mint has been operating since the early 1970s. Considered as one of the most recognisable coins in the world today, the story behind its design is fascinating.
The obverse design of the Queen Elisabeth II portrait was created by Jody Clark. The reverse was created by Phillip Nathan.
Evolution of the Queen Elisabeth’s portrait
The first gold Britannia was made in 1987 and has been produced annually for the last 31 years. Initially, the gold Britannia was produced with a 22 carats alloy (.9167 purity). What is more interesting is the evolution of the obverse design, featuring different portrait of the queen Elisabeth II.
From 1987 to 1997, gold Britannia’s coins features the third portrait of the queen. This design was made by Raphael Maklouf. In this portrait, the queen Elisabeth II wear the George IV state diadem, crown that she wore at her coronation and still wears today while traveling to and from the State Opening of Parliament.
The next portrait was based on the sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, who won the Royal Mint’s contest to design the next portrait. His design was used from 1998 to 2015. Nowadays, most of the nations part of the commonwealth still use this portrait as the obverse for their coins. This is the case of the Australian Perth Mint.
Since 2015, the Royal Mint has used the fifth portrait of the queen Elisabeth. This design was made by Jody Clark, who was the first Royal Mint employee to ever design the Queen’s portrait.
The notable difference is the crown of the Queen. This crown, known as the George IV state diadem was made for King George IV for his 1821 coronation. For your information, the George IV state diadem has a modest 1,333 diamonds.
Evolution of the reverse design
The current design on the reverse features the work from Phillip Nathan at the present time : a standing figure of the lady liberty. This picture was derived from that of the Florins coin (known as the Two Shillings). Nathan’s coin design features Britannia looking to her left with the wind blowing her hair. In her right hand is a trident, and in her left is an olive branch clasped alongside a shield bearing the Union Flag. The artist’s signature is present at the base of the coin.
However, the design evolved overtime through the years. Here is a list :