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Queen Elizabeth’s Long History on World Coins

The five official coin portraits of Queen Elizabeth II.

Learn About the Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II Featured on Coinage

Queen Elizabeth II reigned as a constitutional monarch from 1952 to her passing on September 8th, 2022 for a total of 70 years – one of the longest-reigning sovereign leaders in the world. During her long and prosperous reign, her image graced the obverse of sovereign coins issued by Commonwealth Nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa and more. Her likeness is immediately recognizable to Precious Metals investors and collectors alike.

Since her coronation at age 25, Queen Elizabeth II appeared on coins of all denominations, from one-penny pieces to two-pound coins. Her image on every coin faces right, which is part of a tradition that has lasted for over 300 years with each King or Queen facing in the opposite direction as their predecessor. Queen Elizabeth was undoubtedly one of the most popular monarchs in recent history, and her visage remains highly recognizable. Her image appearing on currency helped spread her popularity even further. Queen Elizabeth’s reign was a time of great prosperity for the British economy, and her image on coinage helped to solidify that fact.

When Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne, Britain was still recovering from the devastation of World War II and the need for coins was great. Queen Elizabeth’s image helped promote a sense of stability and prosperity during a time of great upheaval, helping spread British influence around the world – creating the golden age of coin production for Britain. Mints across the Commonwealth were hard at work producing coins to meet the needs of a growing economy. Some of the most popular coins produced during this time include the British Sovereign, the South African Krugerrand and the Canadian Maple Leaf.

Over the Queen’s lifetime, she had five coinage portraits that immortalized the official record of her reign. Each portrait of the Queen portrayed her through each individual coin artist’s interpretation, creating the perfect snapshots of the Queen at different ages.

queen elizabeth II first effigy

The First Definitive Coinage Portrait in 1953 was designed by Mary Gillick who portrayed the new queen as a young woman yet “unencumbered by a crown.” Gillick’s design features the Queen wearing a laurel wreath, instead of a crown, to represent the element of fresh youth the 25-year-old monarch possessed.

Second effigy of Queen Elizabeth II

The Second Definitive Coinage Portrait in 1968 was designed by Arnold Machin who now showcased the Queen at age 42. With more time and experience as the reigning monarch, Machin wanted to “produce a design with charm and dignity and yet without sentimentality.” The Queen sat with Machin four times to finalize this second coinage design.

The third effigy of Queen Elizabeth II

The Third Definitive Coinage Portrait in 1985 was designed by Raphael Maklouf when the Queen was 59 years old. The Queen had two live sittings with Maklouf to create the design some describe as a “stylized representation of the monarch rather than a direct likeness” and “flatteringly young” to which he said he always intended to “sculpt a symbol and not just a photographic image.”

The fourth effigy of Queen Elizabeth II

The Fourth Definitive Coinage Portrait in 1998 was designed by Ian Rank-Broadley when the Queen was 72. When Rank-Broadley submitted his three versions of his design to The Royal Mint Advisory Committee, they asked him to introduce the “hint of a smile to the portrait” which proved to be difficult for Rank-Broadley initially before he was able to capture the perfect facial expression.

The fifth effigy of Queen Elizabeth II

The Fifth, and final, Definitive Coinage Portrait in 2015 was designed by Jody Clark when the Queen was 89 years old. This final coinage portrait marked the first time in more than 100 years that a designer from The Royal Mint was behind the Queen’s portrait. Clark featured the Queen wearing the Royal Diamond Diadem crown from her coronation and perfectly represented the monarch’s long and successful reign.

While other monarchs have graced the obverse of British coinage throughout the years, Queen Elizabeth II’s time on the throne was by far the most prosperous and her image remains one of the most recognizable in the world. Under her rule, Britain saw tremendous economic growth and coinage was an important part of that growth. The history of coinage in Britain after World War II is a story of success and prosperity, thanks in no small part to the image of Queen Elizabeth II.

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