Changing Monarchs, Changing Coins

The new 50 pence coin featuring the image of King Charles III.

The new 50 pence coin featuring the image of King Charles III.  Credit: The Royal Mint

There has been much talk in the cash industry over the past few weeks, following the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II, about what this means for the countries whose currency – notably coins here – bear her portrait. These include not just the approximately 29 billion circulating coins in the United Kingdom, but also those Commonwealth countries and other territories which feature her image on one or more coins.

Of the 56 members of the Commonwealth, 15 have the British monarch as their head of state. All feature the Queen on their coins (in the case of the eight countries in the Eastern Caribbean, they share a common currency).

In addition to the members of the Commonwealth, there are three crown dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man), along with 15 British Overseas Territories, of which five have their own banknotes and coins (the Falkland Islands, St Helen and Ascension, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar).

In total, 14 countries with the Queen as their head of state issue coins which feature her effigy, on 89 different coins. Or 95 if you factor in the Cook Islands, which feature her on coins, but use the New Zealand dollar for its banknotes.

That’s a lot of coins to be replaced, and for most currencies the change in coinage will likely be a gradual process, with the current coins remaining in circulation for some time. Whether or not some of those countries will replace her image with that of the King remains to be seen, however.

The Royal Mint has confirmed that all UK circulating coins bearing portraits of the late Queen remain legal tender and in circulation. It has already unveiled the first UK coin with an effigy of King Charles III, facing left, the opposite way to his mother (tradition dictates that the direction in which the monarch faces on coins must alternate for each new monarch).

The new 50 pence will enter circulation in the next few weeks. The reverse features a copy of the design used on the 1953 Crown struck to commemorate the Queen’s coronation. The coin features as part of a wider memorial collection that the mint is planning to release, which also includes the newly unveiled £5 commemorative coin (or crown). Its reverse features two new portraits of Queen Elizabeth II.

The other coins – ranging from the 1p to the £2 – will be minted from the start of next year. They include the new £1 coin, a new design for which was already scheduled to enter circulation in 2023.

In Australia, the Royal Australian Mint has confirmed that King Charles coins will start going into circulation in 2023. According to the 1965 Currency Act, Australian coins must feature a portrait of the current monarch.

The Queen has been the only monarch to feature on Australia’s decimal currency, which was introduced in 1966. More than 15 billion coins with her effigy are in circulation, according to the Mint.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has stated that, for cost reasons, there are no immediate plans to change coins (or banknotes), as any design is a few years away. The bank has noted that all stock for a denomination featuring the late Queen is to be issued before any new stock goes out with King Charles III’s image.

Across the Pacific, in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint has stated that a change in monarch has no impact on coins currently in circulation and ‘does not require a wholesale replacement of circulation coins’, announcing that it is planning to issue a series of coins commemorating the Queen.

Similarly, the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank has stated that there are no immediate plans to change the coins – all of which feature the Queen – or new polymer banknotes. However, he did remark that a conversation needed to take place on where the EC states want to take their currency, and whether they should be using their own landmarks and heroes, rather than the British sovereign.

The passing of a monarch is inevitably a time for change, and where this change is perhaps most apparent and keenly-felt is on the currency. For those for whom the Queen was their sovereign, most have never known banknotes or coins without her image.

But in spirit with the keeping of the times and the reluctance to expend resources unnecessarily, that change will be some time coming.