The Royal Mint concludes its five-year World War I commemorations with poignant Armistice coins

The Royal Mint are starting to wrap up their commemorations of the First World War after an extensive five-year program starting in 2014. This year marks the centenary of the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, as it was erroneously known, and that end is known as the Armistice. Commemorative coins have always been inextricably linked with military history and an event like this is understandably being remembered by many mints worldwide.

The Royal Mint have launched two new designs for the commemorations. The premium range uses a quite superb design by sculptor Paul Day, responsible for the Battle of Britain memorial statues on the Victoria Embankment in London. Depicting a kneeling soldier picking up the helmet of a fallen comrade from a battlefield, it’s a striking image that conveys the sense of loss experienced at the end of the war by all those fortunate enough to have survived it. The style of the background and inscriptions have echoes of being scratched in clay. We love this one and would place it near the very best of the centenary commemoration coins.

Three formats are on offer with this design, all well presented, and sadly none of them are at the affordable end of the market. Five ounce gold or silver and a one-kilo silver mean a price range running from £415.00 up to £8465.00 will be this out of reach of most and that’s a huge shame. The second design employs textual art to get its point across. This one is a commemorative £2 coin, so has that bi-metallic look that marks out the standard circulating version of its UK equivalent and as a result, is fixed in size and thus weight.

The art inside reads ‘The truth untold, the pity of war’ and is distorted to look as if it has been inscribed on the surface of a sphere. The border of the coin holds a simple title inscription, along with the denomination. As we said, the three variants of this share the same fixed diameter as the circulating £2 coin. The 22kt (0.9167) gold coin weighs ½oz and the silver comes in at 12 grams for the standard thickness and 24 grams for the double-thickness piedfort variant.

The inscription ‘WILFRED OWEN KILLED IN ACTION 4 NOV 1918’ sits on the edge of the coin. Owen was a poet that was killed near the Sambre-Oise Canal in Northern France just a week before the armistice and the words on the coin are from his poem Strange Meetings. This poem is about the subterranean meeting between a soldier and the enemy he killed, driving home the truth of war rather than the romanticised version that was used to sanitise it for those that hadn’t experienced it directly. He is remembered on a slate stone in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner as one of the 16 Great War poets. Sadly, all but five of his poems were posted after his death.

The Royal Mint has done a sterling job with its five-year remembrance program of precious metal commemoratives. We’re frequently quite critical of the mints price regime, but there’s no denying the obvious care and respect that permeate through much of this millenium old organisations coins and this pair seem to maintain that. We would like to see a smaller version of the Paul Day design, however. Available now.

MINTS DESCRIPTION: During the First World War, numerous employees of The Royal Mint lost their lives and some staff members in active service were even awarded medals made by their own colleagues. Our role then was to produce munitions for the war and keep coin production running. Now, 100 years later, we play a different role, marking the centenary of the First World War with a commemorative collection that has taken us from the outbreak of the conflict to the much-needed Armistice.

THE GUNS FALL SILENT: British sculptor Paul Day is no stranger to creating poignant memorials, one of his most famous pieces of work is the Battle of Britain monument situated on the Victoria Embankment, London. For the reverse of this  coin he has chosen the image of a lone soldier, reminding us of the human cost of war. Each coin comes with thoughtfully designed packaging, where you can read about the story of the Armistice and the inspiration behind your coin’s moving design. The stories of war are brought to life through specially sourced images and accounts produced in conjunction with Imperial War Museums, who receive a donation from each coin purchased.

THE TRUTH UNTOLD: To mark the centenary of the Armistice, Stephen Raw, an internationally renowned textual artist, has created a design for this £2 coin reminding us all of the truth and pity of war. He was inspired by Wilfred Owen, perhaps the best known of the ‘soldier poets’, and the design features an inscription taken from Owen’s poem, ‘Strange Meeting’. Stephen Raw went beyond inspiration, actually visiting France to take clay for his model from the Sambre-Oise Canal where Owen was killed in 1918. This limited edition coin has been finished to the finest Proof standard and comes with a booklet filled with imagery and information sourced with the help of Imperial War Museums.

TITLE The Guns Fall Silent The Truth Untold
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.999 silver 0.9999 gold 0.925 silver 0.925 silver 0.9167 gold
WEIGHT 156.3 grams 1005.0 grams 156.3 grams 12.0 grams 24.0 grams 15.97 grams
DIAMETER 65.00 mm 100.00 mm 50.00 mm 28.40 mm 28.40 mm 28.40 mm
FINISH Proof Proof / gilding Proof
BOX / COA Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
MINTAGE 525 100 50 5,000 (8,000 max) 2,500 (3,500 max) 750 (1,000 max)
PRICE £415.00 £1,995.00 £8,465.00 £67.50 £110.00 £845.00