From early next year, the face of approximately 29 billion coins circulating in the UK will be gradually replaced by a new monarch-King Charles III; a process that hasn’t happened in 70 years. The Royal Mint (Britain’s oldest company, founded in 886AD, and the official maker of UK currency) is constantly producing small flows of coins to subsidize the economy, but at this moment, the company is gearing up to produce more coins than it has done since 1953; the year Queen Elizabeth II was coronated.
Having become familiar with the Queen’s face on coins, the Royal Mint’s revealment of King Charles III’s without a crown and facing the opposite direction is initially unsettling. Rash thoughts surfaced on Twitter exclaiming that these extreme changes might suggest the Monarchy’s admission to its dying relevance in society, particularly since the family’s exemplarity has been undermined by the publicity of characters such as Prince Andrew, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle. In actuality, it is not as outwardly controversial: it’s tradition for Kings not to wear crowns (as George V and Edward VII) and for monarchs to face the opposite direction to their predecessors on coins, bank notes, stamps, and post boxes.
The coinage portrait of King Charles III was designed and molded by the British sculptor Martin Jennings. His design will be carefully scanned by computer software, and then a laser will cut the design into steel pieces, which, with a force of 200 tonnes, will strike each coin three times to imprint the image. In just one minute, 850 coins can be churned out, and in a week, 90 million coins can be made. Unsurprisingly, the processing of manufacturing money costs money. The Royal Mint does not disclose the exact costs, one source says it takes 4 pence worth of raw materials to make a £1 coin (this does not include costs of transportation, labour, the manufacturing process, machinery, nor costs of adapting all coin vending machines, which could cost tens of millions of pounds).
The Royal Mint has also recently released a collection of three commemorative coins (for collection, not circulation) that range in price from £14.50 to £82,950; the latter being the cost of a solid gold coin, weighing 1kg. These coins have been in high demand with a rush of sales; the Royal Mint made 5 ounces of gold coins selling for £13,395, and all 250 have been sold, with some re-appearing on eBay for even greater prices.
Even though the change of monarch on the Pound sterling does not cause mammoth shifts in Uk society, it is a rare occasion and a turn in Britain’s cultural history, so it is important to celebrate the Royal Mint’s current limelight.