At over 1,000 years old, and Britain’s oldest manufacturer, The Royal Mint must be one of the few organisations that can claim to have its products referenced throughout the works of Shakespeare. Royal Mint coins such as the halfpenny, farthing and noble have all taken their turn on the Shakespearean stage, in plays that include Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice and the Merry Wives of Windsor.
It is not only The Royal Mint’s coins that are featured in Shakespeare’s works – one time Master of the Mint, nobleman William Hastings, appeared in Henry VI and also in Richard III, in which Shakespeare tells of his unfortunate demise.
Another coin with a link to Shakespeare – a commemorative £50 silver proof piece – has now been struck by The Royal Mint to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. The coin is the grand finale in its 2016 circulating and commemorative coin series celebrating the works of the playwright. Featuring theatre’s comedy and tragedy masks to represent the range of themes covered by Shakespeare, the coin has been designed by renowned sculptor and coin designer, John Bergdahl.
John Bergdahl said: “There is no definitive proof of how Shakespeare might have looked, but there is a popular perception, so I took inspiration from a black and white engraving to create the masks; for me the two faces summed up his genius.”