UK circulating coinage is about to change completely

British coinage has had its fair share of fascinating tales over the years. But one aspect of our rich heritage that often goes unnoticed is the very coins that started it all. The ones that circulate in our change from day to day.

Our circulating coins are about to change, with the Royal Mint having just announced that eight brand-new reverse designs will soon be revealed for our coinage. It’s set to be one of the biggest changes to UK coinage in decades.

From the iconic pound sterling to the quirky denominations like the farthing, the UK’s circulating coins (also known as the definitive coins) have a rich story to tell.

What are definitive coins?

The UK’s Definitive coins are the denominations that are usually found in our day-to-day change. So that’s everything from the 1p through to the £2 coin. There are eight in total (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, and £2), but they’re often referred to as the UK’s circulating coins or UK’s coinage.

What do circulating coins look like?

Broadly, there are two types of designs that you might recognise from your change. The first are those that were introduced in 1971 when the UK went decimal. Christopher Ironside designed the reverse for these coins. Amazingly they stayed on UK circulating coins for 40 years!

Sometimes you’ll see commemorative versions in your change, but the majority of circulating coins feature either the Christopher Ironside designs or the Royal Shield design. You can see examples below…

1992 Proof Set - UK circulating coinage is about to change completely
The UK 1992 definitive coin designs alongside the commemorative 50p issued in that year.

When did UK coinage last change?

The last time that there was a major overhaul of UK coinage was in 2008. This was with the introduction of the shield design. This constituted the largest re-design of British coinage since the first decimal coins were introduced in 1968.

The innovative reverse designs by Matthew Dent feature the Royal Shield. The design is shared across the 1p to the 50p so that when pieced together, they impressively form the complete Royal Shield.  

Shield  853x1024 - UK circulating coinage is about to change completely
Credit: The Royal Mint

What is the future of UK coinage?

As the UK continues to evolve, so does its coin design. Our circulating coins still currently feature Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. But the Royal Mint has confirmed that there will be a complete overhaul to our coinage as both the heads and tails are set to change.

Eight brand new reverse designs will be revealed soon, and with the addition of the portrait of King Charles III, this is set to be one of the biggest changes to our coins since decimalisation.

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