Coin Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II

Author: Lawrence Chard - Director and Expert Numismatist

Published: 2 Feb 2017

Last Updated: 9 Oct 2019

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Coin Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II

There have been five coin portraits on British coinage since Elizabeth II's accession to the throne on 6 February 1952. These portraits are referred to as definitive UK coin portraits.

The First Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II First Definitive UK Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II First Definitive UK Coin Portrait

The first coins that were issued bearing Elizabeth II's portrait were introduced in 1953, one year after the Queen acceded to the throne. This portrait is called the First Definitive UK Coin Portrait. The engraving by the sculptor, Mary Gillick, captures the grace and youth of the 26 year old new queen. In keeping with tradition, Elizabeth II faces right, her hair is brushed off her face and is rolled at the back of her head. Her hair is restrained by a laureate crown which is tied with ribbons at the back of her head. The Queen's shoulders are bare and the truncation follows the curve of the coin.

This first coin portrait was used on coinage from 1953 - decimalisation in 1970. It continues to be used on Maundy Coins which are distributed by Elizabeth II each year.

The Second Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Second Definitive UK Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Second Definitive UK Coin Portrait

Designed by artist, Arnold Machin, the Second Definitive UK Coin Portrait exudes elegance. This new portrait was released with the introduction of the new five and ten pence decimalisation coins in 1968. This bust displays the Queen wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara; this tiara had been a wedding gift to the Queen from her grandmother Queen Mary in 1947. The Queen's hair is loosely waved and fabric is draped around her shoulders. This portrait was used on coins until 1984. 

The Third Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Third Definitive UK Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Third Definitive UK Coin Portrait

The third definitive UK coin portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was by replaced the second portrait and featured on coins issued between 1985 and 1997. Designed by sculptor, Raphael Maklouf, this engraving reverts back to the truncated portrait which was more traditionally used as a effigy on coins. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara has been replaced by the King George IV State Diadem which is worn by the Queen for the annual State Opening of Parliament. For the first time, Elizabeth II is wearing earrings and a necklace.

The Fourth Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Fourth Definitive UK Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Fourth Definitive UK Coin Portrait

The fourth definitive UK coin portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was designed by sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley. This portrait was introduced in 1998 and was long overdue. The engraving displays a mature portrait of the Queen wearing the Queen Mary button stud pearl earrings and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara. The Queen's neck has been further couped and the bust has been increased to fill more of the coin's surface. This portrait continued to be used until 2015.

The Fifth Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Fifth Definitive UK Coin Portrait

Elizabeth II Fifth Definitive UK Coin Portrait

Designed by Royal Mint engraver, Jody Clark, the fifth definitive UK coin portrait features a bust of Queen Elizabeth II wearing the King George IV State Diadem. This portrait shows an 88 year old Queen with deep wrinkles around the eye and nose to mouth area. The skin sags around the upper eyelid and below the chin. The Queen has the Diamond Jubilee drop pearl earring 's and her chin is lifted slightly which has been said to indicate that she is looking positively towards the future. The truncation is a shaped into a sweeping curve. This portrait was introduced in 2015 and continues to be used today.

More Coin Portraits

Well, actually there have been five definitive UK coin portraits but many more effigies of Elizabeth II which have been used on coins and medallions during her reign. We will be celebrating the Queen's Sapphire Jubilee of the 65th anniversary of her accession to the throne with a blog containing as many portraits as we can find!

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