Each year Britannia is recast, presenting an opportunity for a British artist to reimagine our most famous national symbol. For 2018, David Lawrence returns Britannia to a more classical feel in a composition that channels the spirit of a nation. His take on a numismatic icon is inspired by Ancient Rome.
Creating a design that works within the confines of a coin presents its own unique challenges. David’s approach to getting the reference shots he wanted was certainly novel, enrolling various family members to pose as Britannia, bedecked with bedsheets and broomsticks, before working through the compositions until some pleasing shapes could be resolved within the constriction of the coin’s roundel. The result is an Anglicised version of antiquity.
Overseeing the production of Britannia from concept to coin was The Royal Mint’s Coin Design lead, Lee Jones.
“David has produced a romantic view of Britannia, so lightness was required on our part to complement his treatment of the subject. To achieve the right effect, we increased the amount of plain area, which we refer to as the ‘table’, which is highly polished on the final product. This process also strengthened the silhouette of the head which is important to ensure the design is legible on every size of coin.”
With the design approved, the next step in the process was to strike the coins themselves. Proof coins like Britannia are struck using special dies with a strictly limited shelf life. Between each strike the die is polished and the coin aligned by hand. Proof coins are struck at least twice – the second strike deepens the relief and firms the definition. Each strike uses less pressure than our standard minting process in order to preserve more of the fine detail present in the artwork.
This process showcases the artistry of the design and gives the coin a degree of engineered precision that only striking to Proof standard can achieve: more detail, a clearer relief and a finer, smoother surface than coins struck to normal standards.