Royal Mint celebrates longest reign: our top 10 facts

The Royal Mint Longest Reigning Monarch £20rev

The Royal Mint celebrates Her Majesty The Queen becoming the longest reigning monarch with the unveiling of new coins

The Royal Mint Longest Reigning Monarch £20rev
The reverse of the Longest Reigning Monarch £20 coin, featuring Stephen Taylor’s design of the five portraits of the Queen Credit: The Royal Mint


On 9 September 2015, as the Queen surpasses the record for the longest reign set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria more than a century ago, The Royal Mint celebrates with the unveiling of new coins.

To mark this once-in-a-lifetime occasion, the ‘£20 for £20’ fine silver face value coin is among those making its debut, reflecting the Queen’s journey from her coronation, through decades of social change, to the position she holds today ­as a stateswoman respected across the world.

The £20 fine silver face value coin was designed by Stephen Taylor, a member of The Royal Mint’s creative design team, and is his first design to appear on a United Kingdom coin. Here are our top 10 facts about the new coin, this special occasion and what goes into commissioning a new portrait of the Queen….

1. Her Majesty The Queen’s portrait, which is on all current UK coins, is also referred to as the Queen’s effigy and a sign of royal approval.

2. Stephen Taylor’s design features the five different portraits of the Queen that have appeared on United Kingdom circulating coins. He says: “Combining the five portraits was a challenge, as they are all quite different in their composition: how they’re couped, their size, the crown worn and so on.”

3. Except for unofficial souvenirs struck for Queen Victoria in 1897, there has never been an official coin produced to mark a monarch becoming the longest reigning king or queen in this country.

4. From 1952 to 1999, the Duke of Edinburgh was president of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, which has the important task of deciding the design of coins, medals, seals and decorations.

5. Although there is a new effigy commissioned roughly every 15 years, according to Shane Bissett, director of Commemorative Coin and Medals at The Royal Mint, Prince Philip had a soft spot for the Arnold Machin’s 1968 portrayal of his youthful-looking wife, which wasn’t replaced until 1985.

6. While Stephen Taylor’s Longest Reigning Monarch design features on the reverse of the £20 fine silver face value coin, the fifth portrait of the Queen, launched earlier this year by Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark (below), can be seen on the obverse.

The Royal Mint Longest Reigning Monarch £20obv  Credit: The Royal Mint
The obverse of the £20 coin, featuring Jody Clark’s portrait Credit: The Royal Mint

7. The first UK coins of the Queen’s reign were struck in 1953 and designed by Mary Gillick, whose design (top, far left) was notable for portraying the Queen uncrowned, wearing a laurel wreath. Gillick, a sculptor from Nottingham, beat 16 other artists in competition for the honour of this commission.

8. There are around 29 billion coins with the Queen’s portrait on them in circulation.

9. Never before have all coins in circulation carried the portrait of the same monarch.

10. There are 150,000 of the £20 fine silver face value coin, which you can buy from The Royal  Mint (though they are limited to ten per household), but only 15 of the Longest Reigning Monarch Gold Proof Kilo commemorative coin, the largest UK coin, which, priced at £42,500, have all already been sold.

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