Oct 312011

H.M. Queen Elizabeth II’s forthcoming Diamond Jubilee makes it a fitting time to recall the four Royal effigies to have graced Australian coinage over the past 60 years.  This article first appeared 9 years ago in ‘The Australian Numismatic Post’ (October 2002):

“All four effigies of The Queen to have appeared on Australian coins depict Her Majesty facing right.  According to Britain’s Royal Mint, a convention dating back to the seventeenth century dictates that successive monarchs face in alternative directions on their coinage.

While the switch from the left-facing King George VI to the right-facing Elizabeth II was expected, Mary Gillick’s 1952 effigy of The Queen clearly took a new approach.  Nottingham-born Gillick beat off competition from 16 other artists with her delicate design depicting the head and shoulders of the young, uncrowned monarch.

The Melbourne Mint considered the effigy “very beautiful, but rather difficult to do.”  Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Treasury complained: “Seeing that the effigy of the late King George VI is quite clear cut, we do not understand why the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II should not be equally clear.”

The Gillick effigy (left) and Machin’s ‘decimal’ portrait of Her Majesty.

In its response from London, The Royal Mint underlined the fact that Gillick’s treatment represented a “deliberate departure” from tradition.  Despite the controversy it stirred at the time, the delightful image of the young Queen remains a favourite for many.  It featured on Australian coins until decimalisation in 1966 when the Arnold Machin portrait was introduced (thereby pre-dating its adoption by British coins by two years).

Stoke-born Machin is justly famous for another portrait of The Queen, which featured on British stamps from 1967.  It has been described as the most reproduced portrait of all time – literally, there have been billions.  Earlier, in 1964, he had been chosen to design a new effigy for The Royal Mint – remarkably, his first numismatic project.

For his ‘decimal’ portrait, Machin was granted four sittings at Buckingham Palace and Balmoral.  The work depicts a young but regal Queen, wearing a diamond tiara.  When The Royal Mint unveiled the new coinage, numismatist and author H.W.A. Linecar wrote that it “adhered to the last vestige of tradition”.

The Maklouf design (left) was replaced by Rank-Broadley’s effigy of The Queen in 1998.

The third portrait was by Raphael Maklouf, whose design shows The Queen with the Royal Diadem, which she wears on her way to and from the State Opening of Parliament. Jerusalem-born Maklouf, like Machin, was an accomplished sculptor when he tackled his first coin design.

It has been said that the resulting image, which first appeared on coins in 1985, depicts Her Majesty somewhat younger than her then 58 years.  But it was Maklouf’s avowed intention to produce a “regal and ageless” symbol.

The fourth effigy, by Ian Rank-Broadley, first appeared on Australian coins in 1998.  The design, selected from 19 entries submitted by 10 artists, again features The Queen wearing the tiara given to her as a wedding present by her grandparents.  But the British designer noted, that as well as being Head of State, she was also a real person.

“There is no need to flatter her.  She’s a 70-year old woman with poise and bearing,” he told the Times newspaper.  “One doesn’t need to see a rather distant mask.”

Rank-Broadley’s “strong and realistic” portrait would probably have pleased numismatic conservatives of the earlier era.  In many ways, it completes the gradual return to traditional design following Gillick’s bold experiment fifty years ago.”


  5 Responses to “Keeping the Queen’s effigy right”

  1. I have always been amazed that the Perth Mint does not employ the services of a recognised numismatist to assist with the accurate deployment of information about the “coins” they issue. If you look at the annual reports, the number of staff that work at the Perth Mint would fill up your average CentreLink centre … and yet, apart from Anthea Harris, who writes excellent articles on a part-time basis, there is no one at the mint who has any real numismatic knowledge. I’d even go so far to suggest there are no long term collectors working for the mint or had any real “shop front” knowledge of the business. This can lead to embarrassing errors. I remember back in 2003 getting a panicked call from the publicity gravy train department hoping I could pour cold water on a complaint from a collector who told them that their rather attractive $20 coin to commemorative the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was wrong!!! The multimillion dollar monolith that is the Perth Mint decided that there were only FOUR portraits of the much beloved Queen to have appeared on our coinage. The collector begged to differ by suggesting there were FIVE!!! What would a mere collector know … actually he was right. The Perth Mint overlooked the Viadimir Golttwald portrait appearing on the 2000 Royal Visit coin Fifty Cent piece struck in both cupro-nickel and silver. It was the “FIFTH” portrait issue overlooked by the Perth Mint. Never saw the reply to the collector concerned, if any, but you’d like to think the brains behind the issue went back to the packaging and despatch
    department. It was Oscar Wilde who once said that the loss of one parent was unfortunate but the loss of two was irresponsible! In the case of the number of Queen’s portraits, history has again had its neck wrung by the Perth Mint in the above article “Keeping the Queen’s effigy right,” for a second time it only relates to FOUR portraits. It’s probably fair to say that hardly anyone working at the mint 11 or 12 years ago are still there but it would be fun to give the Mint a call and ask anyone who answers the phone 20 questions about some of the issues they produced 10 to 15 years ago. I would suggest that your success rate would be less than finding a beach ball on the moon. Perhaps you think it a bit unkind to suggest that anyone could be expected to do research back 12 years unless they were working on the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” However there would be no need to go back this far. 18 months would do! In 2010 the RAM used the Vladimir Gottwald portrait AGAIN in its proof gold presentation set. Surely this issue couldn’t have gone through the keeper as well! So just for the record, there are FIVE, not FOUR portraits of the Queen’s portrait that have appeared on Australian coins since her coronation in 1953. What is more ironic is the fact that the Vladimir Gottwald 50 cent piece in 2000 actually WENT INTO CIRCULATION which is more than you can say for any Perth Mint issue since the now defunct bronze two cent pieces in the mid-1970’s!!!

    Just as aside, the above Perth Mint post made mention of the fact that the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II faced right while that of her father faced left and this was a tradition going back to the 17th century. This information is quite correct but the article didn’t give any reason for this ongoing tradition. As you might expect, Charles II was not all that impressed that Oliver Cromwell not only lopped the head of his dad (Charles I) but put his own ‘commoner’ dial on the coins issued during his “reign” that is referred to the “Commonwealth.” When Charles II was restored to the throne and they were preparing his coinage he decreed that he would “turn his back” on Cromwell and would face the opposite direction. The tradition caught on and all successive monarch’s took turns to facing either right or left. This worked swimmingly until the somewhat short but controversial reign of the yet to be crowned Edward VIII (1936). He succeeded his father, the autocratic George V who faced left in all portraits that were struck in the UK as well as it’s dominions at the time. Now Edward VIII didn’t just upset the ‘establishment’ with his choice of bride (Wallace Simpson} but he had the designers at the mint pulling out their hair because of, well … his hair!!! Because he parted his hair on the side he believed that his “best side” meant that he should face to the left like his now deceased Dad. The Mint wasn’t going to have any of it and tried to convince him that he should face to the right. Although a few pattern “test” coins were struck, the still uncrowned King abdicated before any coins went into circulation. When his younger brother, George VI, became king, it was decided that if coins of Edward VIII had been struck, he is portrait would have faced to the right. As a result, those coins issued in the name of George VI faced left (as Edward would have preferred).
    In writing this post I wouldn’t want anyone to think I am hoping to get the job as the numismatic historian for the Perth Mint. Perish the thought! All I am say that if someone like myself, as a member of the general public, can buy the books to research the information …why can’t the Perth Mint. Considering the countless millions they have made out of the collecting public surely it is not asking too much that they employ just one person who knows what’s going on!

  2. Perhaps if Greg McDonald spent half the time working on his catalogue that he does writing incomprehensible things like this on various Internet forums and blogs it might actually be a useful book that the Perth Mint was interested in buying.

    If the authors of the Perth Mint blog want some numismatic advice from someone who won’t make them feel like idiots they could do worse than email the authors of the Vladimir Gottwald article linked to above.

  3. How much money does the Mint Pay the Queen from tac payer funds to use here effigy on the perth minited coins.

    • Hi Michael

      No tax payer funds are paid to the Royal Household for permission to use the effigy of Her Majesty The Queen on our coins.

      You may be interested to know that in contrast to your question, we contribute to Australian Treasury and the State of Western Australia based upon our annual sales and profits.

      “Payments to the Government of Western Australia during the financial year included an income tax equivalent payment of $14.8 million and a dividend of $9.8 million. Royalty payments to Australian Treasury, in terms of the agreement under which Gold Corporation mints and issues Australian legal tender coins, was $3.6 million.” (Perth Mint Annual Report (pdf), 2011)


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