More than a year after King Charles III succeeded the throne, the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra has honoured the memory of his mother, the late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with a limited-edition commemorative 50-cent coin.
The design on the ‘tail’ side depicts the six faces of the Queen that have appeared on the back of our coins since 1953, together with her royal cypher of “ER”, or Elizabeth Regina (‘regina’ is the Latin word for ‘queen’).
The back features what’s called the ‘Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Obverse’, minted on all our coins since 1 January 2023.
Royal Australia Mint CEO Leigh Gordon described the coin as a study of the late Queen’s “graceful aging”.
“Historically, coins bear witness to a monarch’s reign with their royal effigies appearing on the obverse,” he explained.
“The Mint’s trademark storytelling is strongly represented on the coin’s reverse, which features a central design depicting the first six effigies, fanned above the Queen’s royal cypher.”
Created in-house by the Mint’s design team, the central image is framed with lily of the valley, one of the Queen’s favourite flowers, and golden wattle, Australia’s national floral emblem.
Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952, the day of her father’s death. Her portrait first appeared on England’s pre-decimal coinage the following year, designed by Mary Gillick after she beat 16 other artists in a competition hosted by The Royal Mint.
However, her effigy didn’t appear on Australia coinage until after 14 February 1966, following a redesign in 1964.
In 1982, the British Royal Mint held another competition and a design by Raphael Maklouf was accepted and adopted for Australian use. Another update followed in 1998, and on Australian coins from 1999.
To commemorate the Royal Visit in 2000, a different portrait by Vladimir Gottwald was approved for a once-only use. Gottwald was a member of the Royal Australian Mint’s Design and Engraving Section, and became the first Australian designer to have his work on the obverse of an Australian coin since Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal, who sculpted the 1910–1936 effigy of King George V.
The most recent portrait of the Queen, designed by Jody Clark, is the sixth portrait, and appeared on Australian coins from 1999 until a few months after the Queen’s death on 8 September 2022.
From January this year, the Royal Australian Mint transitioned to the ‘Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Obverse’, which adds the years of her reign to Jody Clark’s design.
The official Commonwealth effigy of the new king was released by the mint on 5 October 2023, with plans for it to circulate on Australian coins before Christmas. It will start on the dollar and roll out across the other denominations over 2024, based on demand from banks.
In line with tradition, King Charles III will face left on the coins, about-face from his mother, who faced right.
The special edition coin is on sale at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, through the mint’s contact centre on 1300 352 020, or through the mint’s authorised distributors.
The mint expects the coin to be a “highly prized addition to any coin collection”.