William Shakespeare, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, was born 450 years ago. In celebration, The Perth Mint has created an extremely limited commemorative struck from 5oz of 99.9% pure silver.
With a diameter of 60mm, the large coin provided senior designer Wade Robinson with plenty of room to explore a range of Shakespearean themes, including a likeness of the ‘immortal bard’ that was created using a highly unusual artistic process.
Wade’s design concept represents Shakespeare within the context of Elizabethan theatre. Playhouses were extraordinarily popular in late 16th century England and Shakespeare had a share in one of the most famous, London’s Globe Theatre, which staged many of his most prominent works.
Theatres like the Globe comprised a ‘pit’ in which ordinary patrons stood to watch the performance, as well as surrounding galleries for wealthier members of the audience. Wade’s representation of this structure, including the open roof which creates space in the design to reveal the coin’s proof table, incorporates a number of Shakespearean figures. On stage, an actor symbolises one of his many lead characters, while in the galleries are motifs denoting famous scenes from Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Henry V.
Above this area of the design is a circular border containing a representation of the bard himself, rendered in a remarkable fashion previously unseen on any previous Perth Mint commemorative.
The technique employs one continuous line that spirals outwards with subtle variations in width to create a recognisable picture. It took Wade many hours of painstaking work to draw a likeness of Shakespeare’s face in this way.
The intricate result was then laser engraved on to the master die, from which the working dies required to strike the coin were produced. As far as we know, the outcome is in fact the first ever coin to include an image created in this way.
The Perth Mint will release no more than 450 of these 450th Anniversary of William Shakespeare 2014 5oz Silver Proof Coins. Their rarity and innovation befits the extraordinary achievements of the world’s greatest dramatist.