THE signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago is just one of the historic milestones being commemorated on new coins unveiled today by the Royal Mint.
Each of the coins, which are legal tender and go into circulation today, marks a major turning point that has helped shape the British Isles.
A “tail” side of a new £2 coin will depict the signing of the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215.
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The agreement, which still forms an important symbol of liberty, was first drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in an attempt to make peace between England’s unpopular King John and a group of rebel barons.
The coin joins a range of other Magna Carta commemorations this coming year, including a British Museum exhibition.
Another £2 piece carries a battleship design to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and the Royal Navy’s crucial role in the conflict.
The 75th anniversary of the 1940 Battle of Britain is saluted with a 50p depicting a fleet of aircraft.
The 2015 designs will soon become a familiar sight in pockets and purses throughout the country, in a year that sees another significant change in UK coinage. The “heads” image of the Queen is also being replaced for the first time in 17 years, making it only the fifth created during her 62-year reign.
“The Royal Mint has commemorated significant moments of national and cultural significance on its coins for over 1,000 years,” said Royal Mint director of circulating coin Andrew Mills. “By the time these coins turn up in our change later in the year, they will be among the first UK circulating coins to feature the new portrait of the Queen, in what promises to be a very exciting and unusual vintage year for our coinage.”
The latest estimates suggest there are 28.9 billion UK coins in circulation with a total face value in excess of £4 billion.
All of these were made by the Royal Mint, which issued nearly two billion UK coins in the past year alone.
The Royal Mint has an unbroken history of minting British coinage for more than a millennium. It was based in the Tower of London from the late 13th century and remained there for more than 500 years.
In 1812, the organisation moved to premises on London’s Tower Hill, then in 1967 the building of a new headquarters began at its current site in South Wales.
The Royal Mint has also long been involved in producing currencies for other countries around the world and is currently the world’s leading export mint.
The Mint has also been making official military campaign medals since it was commissioned to create awards for soldiers who fought in the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
It created all 4,700 victory medals for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Royal Mint also produced a special 50p to commemorate this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
It depicts a cyclist and an athlete, a Saltire and lettering inspired by Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The three new coin designs have been revealed just days after the Royal Mint announced it would produce 50,000 new commemorative £100 coins featuring Big Ben, which have been minted to celebrate the start of the new year.
The coins, which contain 56 grams of silver, are available at their face value of £100.
In September 2014, the Royal Mint launched a new bullion trading website that allows customers to buy, store and sell bullion coins at constantly updated prices 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
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