This is one of those releases we always look forward to. The Royal Mint has debuted a new multi-year programme of coins tapping into Britain’s rich history, in the same vein as recent numismatic hits like the Queen’s Beasts, the Tudor Beasts, and the Great Engravers series. They almost always exhibit sky-high standards of design and execution, and this latest five-year, 21-coin series, looks to be no exception.
Called the ‘British Monarchs Collection’, it will span the Royal Houses of Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, and finally the current mob, Saxe-Coburg, Gotha & Windsor. The aim of this range is to reproduce in ‘high definition’, basically taking original coins back to an idealised look, as if freshly struck with more detail. A selection of four silver (1, 2, 5, 10 oz) and three gold coins (1, 2, 5 oz) will make up the range, all carrying the same design, and all with a proof finish.
First to launch is the Tudor king, Henry VII, the last British monarch to seize the throne on a battlefield, back in 1485. He introduced quite a few policies aimed at stabilising the economy, and of particular importance here, was the first king to attempt a realistic portrait on his coinage. The coin used by the Royal Mint for reproduction, a Groat, is one that dates from around 1504. Henry’s coins before this date carried a frontal portrait, rather than the side effigy we use today, and is seen here. Indeed, one of those earlier frontal portrait coins was found in Canada a couple of months ago, and may be the oldest English coin yet found in North America.
It’s a beautiful coin, expertly reproducing the essence of the 1504 coin, including all the little flaws that highlight the original’s hand-struck nature. Done with obvious reverence, we’re hopeful the entire series will grow into something very special. The highlight is a stunning two-coin set containing a two-ounce gold coin, along with an original 5.12 gram, Henry VII Gold Angel coin from the period. There will be only ten sets made available, each costing £10,500. This brings us to our only real complaint, and as usual, it’s one of value. Only one of the seven coins is (just) under £100, and the smallest gold runs £2,370. If you want to engage newer collectors, we’re going to need some more offerings at the lower end. Overall, however, a terrific debut.