Tuesday, 6 December 2016

4 Rare Coins That Could Be In Your Pocket

Four rare coins that could be in your pocket right now

Over the past few weeks we have shared stories of amazing discoveries with you, everything from finding rare coins in toy boxes to digging up hordes of roman treasure in a field. But you also may be carrying something rare without even knowing it. Here are 4 coins that may be in your pocket right now that could brighten your day:

1. The Kew Gardens 50 pence piece.  Struck in 2012, the Kew Gardens 50p is one of the lowest minted of its kind in history.  Totaling a minuscule 200,000 (compared to the average 2 million!) the Kew Gardens 50p was only discovered to be rare in 2015, when collectors cottoned on to its remarkably low mintage. Now high grade examples of this piece can reach highs of up to £50 per coin – 100 times their face value.

2. The ‘undated’ 20 pence piece.  In 2009, 200,000 ‘undated’ 20 pence pieces accidentally entered circulation due to an error.  The date had changed sides of the coin, and coins were accidentally produced using two dies of which neither bore a date.  These coins are famous and popular and can command prices upwards of £100 in good condition.

3.  The ‘silver’ two pence piece is not silver at all.  In actual fact, a small number of two pence pieces were struck in the copper-nickel alloy of the 50p, 20p, 10p and 5p.  This happened by mistake at the Royal Mint.  Only a handful is known.  One sold at auction in 2016 for over £1350.                                   

4. The early decimal coins (half penny, penny and two pence) of Great Britain featured the word ‘New’ before their denomination – e.g. Two New Pence. All 2p pieces struck before 1982 feature this title.  However, in 1983, a few were minted with the title ‘New Pence’ rather than ‘Two Pence’.  It is not certain how many of these were struck, but they are known to reach highs of over £500 at auction.

So what are you waiting for? Go take a look! 

And don't forget to come back soon for our
'Christmas Traditions Blog'

Thursday, 24 November 2016

From Concept to Creation - The Battle of Hastings Anniversary Medal

The eagerly awaited first-strike Battle of Hastings Anniversary Medal.

The Battle of Hastings Medal, commemorating the momentous anniversary – 14th October 2016 – 950 years since 1066.  This was arguably the year Britain changed forever. 
A year of three kings, 1066 ended with the coronation of William the Conqueror, on Christmas Day.  William’s successes are immortalized in history, and the world-famous Bayeux Tapestry.  His accession sparked a lineage which stretches to Queen Elizabeth II.

The death of King Edward the Confessor triggered a free-for-all for the title of King of England.  Harold, son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, was one of the most powerful Saxon noblemen in Britain, and seized power upon Edward’s death.  Harald Hardrada was a vicious Viking ruler, who saw the death of Edward as the perfect opportunity to invade.  Finally, William, Duke of Normandy was furiously preparing an invasion fleet, having apparently been promised the English throne by Edward before he died.

Edward the Confessor’s death sparked the power struggles of 1066.
(Part of the Hastings 950 medal set highlighting key stages of the Battle)

Hardrada, the Viking King, was the first to invade.  He fought his way into the North of England and met with the newly crowned King Harold at Stamford Bridge (a few miles east of York).  Evenly matched, Harold’s army defeated the Vikings – Hardrada dying from an arrow to the neck.  But his army took heavy losses and to Harold’s horror, William had taken the opportunity to invade.  Harold was forced to march over 250 miles from York to Pevensey, on the south coast – a feat which he apparently accomplished in only one week!

Harald Hardrada wanted England as a Viking domain, as it had been under his predecessor, King Cnut.
(Part of the Hastings 950 medal set highlighting key stages of the Battle)

Harold’s army met William at Hastings, near the modern-day village of Battle, on the 14th October, 1066.  Though his army was exhausted, they held firm against the Norman onslaught of arrows and javelins for hours, before breaking under the strength of William’s well fed and fresh force.  Harold, as we’ve all been taught, took an arrow in the eye and fell.  William of Normandy, now William the Conqueror, simply marched on to London. 

William the Conqueror was victorious at Hastings following King Harold’s brutal death.
(Part of the Hastings 950 medal set highlighting key stages of the Battle)

“It’s always exciting and gratifying when a newly struck medal arrives at our office – even more so when you’ve been involved in managing the conception, design and execution of the piece.  In this case, it’s the Battle of Hastings Anniversary Medal – and what a design it is.

From the very beginning it was decided to showcase a stunning design in high-relief.  Master sculptor John Bergdahl has gone to amazing lengths to show the battle, inspired by details from the Bayeux Tapestry.  Right down to the saddles, motifs of the shields and the weaponry held by every soldier, his design really brings the Bayeux Tapestry to life”- Dom Chorney (Project Manager).  


(Bergdahl’s original pencil sketch of the Battle of Hastings Medal, next too the finish article)

The reverse has been sculpted by Master Sculptor Matt Bonaccorsi, and is also inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry.  With beautiful floral designs lifted straight from the fabric, the design is crested with a pair of griffins, some of the many animals sewn into the Bayeux Tapestry.   

William the Conqueror never issued a medallion to commemorate his victory at Hastings. However, 950 years on the Worcestershire Medal Service – Medalist to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and holders of the Royal Warrant struck the medal to honour a key piece of British history.
To get your own FREE limited edition medal, exclusively available from the London Mint Office visit www.h950.co.uk or call the London Mint Office’s dedicated team on 0800 195 2925.  Only one per household is permitted.

Friday, 30 September 2016

WWI - The Horror of the Trenches

“You are doing the only thing that is right” Eva Isaacs 12 August 1914

After the outbreak of War in August 1914, Britain began to raise a huge volunteer citizen’s army lead by Lord Kitchener, which has been discussed in a previous London Mint Office blog: ‘Lord Kitchener: The Recruitment of Britain’s New Army’. Unlike most people, Lord Kitchener believed this would be a long war and Britain could no longer just rely on its small, professional army.

It’s said that many men joined Lord Kitchener’s new army out of a sense of duty or patriotism and even saw it as a chance to leave dull lives for new adventures. Due to this, in just eight short weeks, over three quarters of a million men in Britain had joined up.

“Digging, digging, digging. Always bloody well digging” Soldiers Song 1915

By late 1914, it was clear that the war had become deadlocked on the Western Front, neither side was achieving victory. Soldiers began to dig trenches which would protect them from fire; they soon became vast trench networks that snaked from the English Channel to Switzerland. It was soon discovered that trenches were easy to defend but difficult to attack; it became a deadly game of hide and seek against an almost invisible enemy.

The Germans had taken higher ground which resulted in a better observation point to repel any attack and the British and French soldiers had to attack across no man’s land - a strip of terrain, laced with barbed wire between the two sides. It’s been noted that there had been trench warfare before, but never on this scale.

These trenches were no luxury , as the months passed and the death toll raised, with many men buried in shallow graves, life in the trenches became a man’s hell - a man’s hell where he had to sleep!

The busier sectors of the trenches that were under constant shellfire by the enemy brought death to many soldiers, whether on active duty, resting in the trench or lying in a dugout. Many were buried as a consequence of such large shell-bursts.

As the war continued and the death toll rose, rats in their millions started infesting the trenches. Gorging themselves on human remains, they could grow to be the size of a cat. Men, exasperated and afraid of these rats tried many methods to rid themselves of the creatures, however, the rat problem remained for the duration of the war. Rats were not the only source of infection and nuisance. Among the rats, lice was a never ending problem causing the men to itch uncontrollably. The lice caused a painful disease called ‘Trench Fever’ resulting in severe pain followed by a high fever. Recovery away from the trenches took up to twelve weeks.

As the war stretched on, trench foot became a major medical condition; this was a fungal infection of the feet caused by the cold, wet and unsanitary trench conditions. Trench foot needed to be handled quickly or it could turn gangrenous and result in amputation.

It is difficult to measure the true number of people killed during the First World War however it has been estimated from 8.5 to 12.0 million.

Discover out our World War I Remembrance Coins HERE

By Helen Thomas