Obverse. Photo © Lawrence Chard
  • 50 Pence 2013, KM# 1246, United Kingdom (Great Britain), Elizabeth II, 100th Anniversary of Birth of Christopher Ironside
  • 50 Pence 2013, KM# 1246, United Kingdom (Great Britain), Elizabeth II, 100th Anniversary of Birth of Christopher Ironside
  • 50 Pence 2013, KM# 1246, United Kingdom (Great Britain), Elizabeth II, 100th Anniversary of Birth of Christopher Ironside

The Royal Mint have launched a special coin which remembers the centennial birthday anniversary of Sir Christopher Ironside, (1913 – 1992) the talented artist whose designs graced British coinage for more than four decades up to and after the UK’s transition to a decimal currency in 1971.

The United Kingdom had thought about introducing a coinage and currency based upon a decimal system instead of the Pounds, shillings, pence system in place for more than 400 years. The Treasury attempted to introduce this idea as far back as the 1840’s when a two shilling coin or, a tenth of a pound denomination was introduced for the first time. The idea took more than another hundred years to take root and during the early 1960’s, plans were underway to do just this, replace the older system with a new currency based on 100 pence to the pound.

Sir Christopher Ironside was commissioned to come up with new designs for the planned denominations which included a twenty pence coin and the possibility of a 2 ½ pence coin which would have transitioned from the old six-pence coin. Ironside’s work and designs were carried out in total secrecy until they were unveiled and produced in 1968 and the first of the “new” pence coins went into circulation – three years before the official change-over to the new system. In total, Ironside’s designs were included on the new ½ penny, one penny, two pence, five pence, ten pence and fifty pence coins, all with the prefix “new” before the word penny or pence. The word “new” was finally removed in 1982 and the first decimal designs were eventually changed in 2008. Ironsides designs were used for one of the longest periods during the single reign of a British Monarch since the time of Queen Victoria.


Fourth crowned portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II facing right, wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara.

The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara was a wedding present in 1947 from her grandmother, Queen Mary, who received it as a gift from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland in 1893 on the occasion of her marriage to the Duke of York, later George V. Made by E. Wolfe & Co., it was purchased from Garrard & Co. by a committee organised by Lady Eve Greville. In 1914, Mary adapted the tiara to take 13 diamonds in place of the large oriental pearls surmounting the tiara. At first, Elizabeth wore the tiara without its base and pearls but the base was reattached in 1969. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara is one of Elizabeth's most recognisable pieces of jewellery due to its widespread use on British banknotes and coinage.

ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA FIDEI DEFENSATRIX means Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, Queen and Defender of the Faith.

Engraver: Ian Rank-Broadley



A heraldic design which was first rejected in favor of Ironside’s depiction of a seated Britannia with shield. The Britannia design was preferred as it had been a tradition for Britannia to be included on circulation coinage since the reign of Charles II and was utilized for the fifty pence denomination. In honour of Ironside’s birth centennial, his Royal Arms – a design admired but never used – finally appears on a UK 50p coin. Faithfully reproduced in its original form, the coin used the designation NEW PENCE above the crest but this has been amended to FIFTY PENCE for 2013.

The royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, or the Royal Arms for short, is the official coat of arms of the British monarch. In the standard variant used outside of Scotland, the shield is quartered, depicting in the first and fourth quarters the three passant guardant lions of England; in the second, the rampant lion and double tressure flory-counterflory of Scotland; and in the third, a harp for Ireland. The crest is a statant guardant lion wearing the St Edward's Crown, himself on another representation of that crown. The dexter supporter is a likewise crowned English lion; the sinister, a Scottish unicorn. In the greenery below, a thistle, Tudor rose and shamrock are depicted, representing Scotland, England and Ireland respectively. This armorial achievement comprises the motto of English monarchs, Dieu et mon Droit (God and my Right), which has descended to the present royal family as well as the Garter circlet which surrounds the shield, inscribed with the Order's motto, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on he who thinks evil).

Engraver: Christopher Ironside


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Type Commemorative Issue (Circulating)
Material Cupronickel
Weight 8 g
Diameter 27.3 mm
Thickness 1.8 mm
Shape polygon
Sides 7
Alignment Medal
Royal Mint

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