World Coins: Great Britian 1965 Winston Churchill Crown

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader on 7/12/2011

The Great Britain 1965 Winston Churchill crown was the first time a commoner was portrayed on a British coin.

With so many commemorative coins issued in recent decades, it’s hard to imagine that at one time being portrayed on a commemorative coin was one of the highest honors for any individual. The appearance of Churchill shows the magnitude of his importance and popularity.

Churchill graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst at the end of 1894 and saw action in British India, Sudan and the second Boer War in South Africa. He later went into politics and served as Chancellor of the Exchequer where he returned the British Pound to the gold standard in 1925. In 1940 he became Prime Minster after Neville Chamberlain resigned. During this period he reached his highest acclaim by leading Great Britain through World War II and to victory.

Churchill received many awards and honors including the Nobel Prize for Literature and the offer of Duke of London, which he refused. He was the first person made an honorary citizen of the United States and one of only seven to receive this honor.

After his death in January 1965 at the age of 90, he received some of the greatest honors. By decree of Queen Elizabeth his body laid in state for three days. The queen attended his funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was almost unheard of for a monarch.

Portraits on coinage were reserved for the ruling monarchy in Great Britain. Yet, the magnitude of Winston Churchill and the imprint he had left on Britain (and the world) was too great to resist. As the world quickly paid its respects, Britain issued a circulation coin like none other in its history.

Great Britian 1965 Winston Churchill Crown

The obverse of the coin was reserved for the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Churchill’s bust and name appear with seemingly equal esteem on the reverse. It is the first and only pre-decimal British coin to feature an image of a non-monarch.

While the Winston Churchill crown coin is quite common with a mintage of 9,640,000 and often sells for merely a few dollars, its footprint looms large as the beginning of British Commemorative coinage – a tradition that would later feature other individuals. The tradition is now so recognizable that it is easy to forget just how unusual the honor was when it began.

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