The Royal Mint has just confirmed the imminent release of new 2023 definitive coin designs. This means that the standard reverse or 'tails' designs on UK coins will be updated for the first time in 15 years.
What will these designs look like? How can you get them? And why are they important for collectors of British coins anyway?
Read on for a full guide to definitive coinage, plus what we know so far about the new 2023 definitive coins.
What Is A Definitive Coin Design?
Definitive coin designs are the standard motifs seen on the majority of official currency. These designs stay the same for years or decades and are instantly recognisable. Collectors get excited when a new definitive design is released as this is a rare event.
Definitive designs used on modern UK coins include the image of Britannia, formerly used on the 50p, and the lion seen on old 10ps. Currently, most UK coins from the 1p through to the 50p feature an interconnected shield design, created by Matthew Dent. When carefully arranged these coins form the royal shield of arms of the United Kingdom.
Current definitive designs, left to right: a shield 50p (introduced in 2008), a 'Nations of the Crown' £1 (2016) and a Britannia £2 (2015).
Numismatists (coin experts) also talk about 'definitive portraits'. These are the standard profile portraits of the reigning monarch seen on their coinage. Definitive portraits are often used for long periods. Queen Elizabeth II used only five different coin portraits across her seven-decade reign, showing her transition from a young woman to a great-grandmother.
Definitive designs are different from commemorative designs.
Commemorative designs are issued to celebrate a person, event or anniversary. National and private mints across the world issued commemorative coins. Commemorative coins struck by The Royal Mint have featured British authors, famous historical events and royal milestones like coronations and jubilees.
Commemorative coins are generally produced in limited numbers. They may be released into general circulation or they may be issued only in collectors formats like silver proof or brilliant uncirculated. While definitive designs are struck on coins across multiple years, commemorative designs are usually issued in one year only.
2023 Definitive One Pound Coins
We've known for a while that we would be getting a new definitive £1 coin. The news broke in the summer of 2022, before the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. With memorial and coronation coins to produce it's easy to see why this release has been pushed back by The Royal Mint.
The new One Pound coin is being minted to mark 40 years since the first decimal Pounds were put into circulation. The new design - the work of Kenyan-born British artist, Michael Armitage - will replace David Pearce's 'Nations Of The Crown' design, in use since 2017. The Mint has said that Armitage's One Pound:
'... will celebrate the culture, creativity, heritage and history of the UK in the 21st century.'
The exciting news is that this long-awaiting release will be joined by a full range of definitive designs, across all circulating UK currency from the 1p to the £2.
The current definitive £1 is the work of David Pearce who was just 15 when he created the design which replaced the old 'Round Pound' in 2016.
Release Date For 2023 UK Definitive Coin Sets
We don't know yet when the 2023 definitive coins will be available or what they will look like.
The Royal Mint has teased the release on their YouTube channel with a short video so we're likely to find out more about these coins soon.
What we know from the video is that the definitive design will be changed on all eight circulating UK coins. While the reverses are changing, the obverse or 'heads' side of these coins seems to feature the portrait of Charles III by Martin Jennings that was unveiled late last year following the King's accession to the throne.
Martin Jennings' uncrowned portrait of King Charles III as it appears on the obverse of 2023 silver proof 50ps and £2 coins.
Earlier in the year we saw this new portrait of King Charles on commemorative coin sets. Available in platinum proof, gold proof, silver proof, piedfort silver, premium proof, proof and a brilliant uncirculated finish, these sets are nearly sold out on the Royal Mint's website. They contain five key commemorative designs for 2023 including the J R R Tolkien £2 and the Windrush 50p.
UK 2023 Proof Annual sets are now sold out at The Royal Mint but we still have some sets available now with international delivery options.
Generally, definitive coins are included in some UK annual sets. The fact that only commemorative designs were released raised eyebrows among collectors with some speculating the change indicated new definitive designs would be issued later in the year.
Why these sets are being released so late in the year is unclear. Perhaps the reported issue with sourcing planchets is to blame. Or perhaps the team at The Royal Mint have just been rushed off their feet with 2023's busy release schedule.
Either way, we can expect to see these new definitive designs in our change soon as well as in a range of collectable coin sets. We're predicting the release of the following sets:
- 2023 Definitive BU Set
- 2023 Definitive Proof Set
- 2023 Definitive Silver Proof Set
- 2023 Defintive Gold Proof Set
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Frequently Asked Questions
The Royal Mint has released a video on their YouTube channel teasing the release of the eagerly anticipated 2023 definitive coinage but a release date has not yet been announced.
Definitive coins feature standard designs, often used for decades. They are different to commemorative coins that often showcase one-year-only designs, e.g. to mark royal events.
Definitive coins feature standardised designs that are used for multiple years. Commemorative coins are generally issued in limited numbers and feature special, collectable designs.
Definitive coin designs are the motifs used on most official currencies. British examples include Britannia on old 50p coins and the technology-themed design used on the first circulating £2s.
Definitive coins are sought after by collectors looking to acquire full sets of official coinage. The first coins struck with a new definitive design can be valuable, as can the final issues.
Commemorative coins are often produced in limited quantities so are appealing to some collectors though definitive coins can also be rare and sought-after, depending on the issue.