Money, money, money

Britain's currency is changing design to feature the new King


It’s less than two months until King Charles III’s coronation on 6  May and preparations are in full swing. And as more and more details of the big day are revealed, it promises to be one to remember.  

The ascension (1) of the former Prince of Wales, who was officially proclaimed King in September of last year on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, marked the beginning of a  ‘Carolean’ era in Britain. There are many surprising changes that come with a new monarch, including the issuing of updated coins, banknotes and postage stamps, whose design all includes an image of the reigning King or Queen.  

The Bank of England unveiled banknote designs featuring a portrait of Charles in December  last year.  Although the notes aren’t set to enter circulation until mid-2024, King Charles III 50 pence pieces are already changing hands, since  around 5 million of them have now been dished out from Post Offices across the countries as change. Eagle-eyed (2) royal fans went wild when they noticed what appears to be the outline of a small bird hidden in the design - nestled in the King’s ear. This is a touching tribute to the environment-loving monarch, who has been a keen advocate of the natural world for decades.

 Charles's views on sustainability have clearly been extended to the policy for introducing the redesigned banknotes and coins. The Royal Household advised that they should only enter circulation as and when they’re needed as replacements. That could take a while: according to the Royal Mint the average coin can last for upwards of 40 years! Meanwhile, currency featuring the image of Elizabeth II will remain legal tender (3).  

-King Charle’s personal coronation emblem
-Kate's jewellery box

The change in currency is causing excitement. Kevin Clancy, the director of the Royal Mint Museum, explains: “For many people this will be the first time in their lives that they have seen a new monarch appear on money. It represents the biggest change to UK coinage since decimalisation and will usher in a new era where the coins of Queen Elizabeth II and Charles co-circulate in the UK.” 

Postage stamps and passports featuring Charles's likeness will also be phased in (4), with Carolean stamps available to purchase from  4 April and letter-writers given until the end of July to use any remaining stamps from Queen Elizabeth’s reign. 

It's worth noting that currency dating from the iconic late monarch's era may actually rise in value. Gregory Edmund, who works at a high-end collectables auction house, explains: “The Queen’s place in history is only going to grow in importance over time and this is likely to be reflected in the value of rare coins and banknotes relating to her reign going up in price in the months and years ahead.”  So if you have the odd fiver (5) in your purse, hang onto it!

1.Ascension = Act of becoming King or Queen 
2.Eagle-eyed = Observant 
3.Legal tender = Valid coins or banknotes 
4.To phase out = To gradually withdraw or discontinue something  5.Fiver = A £5 note (colloquial)

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