World Coins: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubliee of Numismatics

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader on 2/14/2012

During Queen Elizabeth II's reign her portrait has been featured on coins worldwide.

The year 2012 will commemorate many occasions including the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The Diamond Jubilee will mark the 60th year of her reign, the second longest in British history. During those 60 years, Queen Elizabeth II has been a major part of numismatics as her portrait is featured on coins world wide.

Gibraltar 2002 Gold Commemorative 1/2 Crown for Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubliee

Elizabeth Alexander Mary was born on April 21, 1926, the daughter of the King George VI. Elizabeth’s father became monarch after his brother Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936. Since King George VI did not have a son, Elizabeth was the heir presumptive.

In 1939 Great Britain was at war. The Royal Family stayed in England. Elizabeth went to work for the war effort making radio broadcasts, public appearances and even joining the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service where she worked as a driver and mechanic.

After the war, Elizabeth married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on November 20, 1947. On November 14, 1948, Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, Prince Charles.

In 1952, while Elizabeth and Phillip were on tour in Kenya, George VI died. Elizabeth became Queen on February 6, 1952. Elizabeth chose to keep her given name as her regnal name and became Elizabeth II. The coronation took place on June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey and was televised for the first time. More than 20 million British watched the event and just under 100 million in North America.

After her coronation, Elizabeth II and Prince Philip took a six-month world tour where she carried out many commonwealth and foreign state visits. She became the first reigning monarch to visit Australia and New Zealand. This placed her on a path to become the most widely traveled head of state in history.

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign commenced at a time when decolonization was occurring and there was a move to a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth. Despite this effort, decolonization continued with over 20 countries gaining independence and territories relinquished to existing ones. This time witnessed a shrinking of Great Britain’s world power and influence. The Queen’s status in government declined to that of a figurehead as Republics were formed in Commonwealth States and the Prime Minister and Parliament took on a more prominent role in British politics and policy.

Great Britian 1981 Commemorative Crown celebrating the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana

The growth in media coverage of the Royal Family has been a great influence on the daily life of the Monarchy. In 1977, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the Silver Jubilee of her accession. The event's coverage reaffirmed the popularity of the Queen, despite the divorce of Princess Margaret that resulted in a lot of negative publicity at that time. The media attention grew significantly after the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981, the birth of the Queen’s grandsons (William in 1982 and Harry in 1984), the divorce of Lady Diana and Prince Charles, the death of Lady Diana in 1997 and the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002. In 2011, Prince William’s marriage was shown worldwide and every detail was painstakingly discussed by the media and tabloids. The 2012 Diamond Jubilee will certainly be a media story and is already starting to gather momentum.

L: Portrait for Great Britain and Commonwealth Coins; R: Portrait for colonial possessions

Throughout Queen Elizabeth II’s reign her portrait has been featured on countless coins. Her portrait was first featured on coins in 1953 issued in Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Fiji, Jamaica, Malaya & British Borneo, Mauritius, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. Different countries have used different portraits. Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada used an uncrowned effigy, because they were Dominions. Colonies such as Fiji, Jamaica, Malay and British Borneo, Mauritius and Hong Kong used a crown effigy. Some countries, like Southern Rhodesia, were offered a choice of effigy for their coinage. Varieties exist on the 1953 Canadian coinage; Queen Elizabeth either has a shoulder fold or no shoulder fold.

In 1965, a new effigy of Queen Elizabeth II with more mature features and wearing a tiara was used for Great Britain and several Dominions. In 1985, Great Britain, Australia and other countries started using a crowned effigy of Elizabeth II. In 1998, a fourth effigy was used for coinage, this time exhibiting more mature and rounder features. Several other changes have occurred to Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait on circulating and commemorative coins. Many countries that are or were once in the British Commonwealth have stopped using her effigy. However, many other places that issue non-circulating legal tender coinage employ the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the coins. Several larger countries including Australia have debated the abolishment of the Queen’s effigy on currency. If legislation is passed, Elizabeth II may be the last British Monarch to have a portrait on coins for several countries.

L: Queen Elizabeth II's effigy used in 1985-1997; R: Effigy used 1998 to present

The 2012 Diamond Jubilee will see a large issuance of commemorative coinage featuring Queen Elizabeth II. Several countries have already issued commemorative coins hoping to capitalize on the event.

The numismatic influence of Queen Elizabeth II is tremendous. She is the last monarch on many coins throughout the world. Her Diamond Jubilee will not only celebrate the 60th year of her reign but also her influence on numismatics for that time and potentially for years to come.