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British History

The 100 year old tin that was delivered to ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’…

As they left for war in Autumn 1914, the soldiers, and the country, believed that it would all be over by Christmas of that year. We know now that the brutal conflict was to drag on for another 4 years, but Christmas 1914 became famous for being the first respite from the war

Many felt the need to show give a small token of appreciation to those who had put their lives on the line. And so, on 30th October 1914, Princess Mary launched her Christmas Gift fund. She asked the public: 

“I want you now to help me send a Christmas present from the whole nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front.”

UK 1914 WWI Christmas Princess Mary Tin Silver Five Coin Set3 - The 100 year old tin that was delivered to ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’…
Princess Mary embossed on the top of the tin

And they did. Her appeal was met with an enthusiastic response, eventually raising over £162,000 (an incredible sum at the time). This led to the memorable Princess Mary’s Gift Box. It was a beautiful embossed brass box, 128 x 84 x 30mm (5 x 3.3 x 1.2 inches), containing one ounce of pipe tobacco, 20 cigarettes, pipe, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card and a photo of Princess Mary.

On Christmas Day 1914 alone, almost 500,000 Christmas tins were distributed to British service personnel. The boxes were sent to “every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front” in accordance with Princess Mary’s wishes.

UK 1914 WWI Christmas Princess Mary Tin Silver Five Coin Set4 - The 100 year old tin that was delivered to ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’…
‘Christmas 1914’ embossed on the tin – the date the tin was given to soldiers

A large number of these tins were subsequently damaged in the war, with many being blown apart by shells or corroded in the wet conditions in the trench. However, the boxes that have survived are now distinctive mementoes of the war’s first Christmas.

They are also absolutely fascinating historic artefacts  – each tin is totally unique and may have even been there in the trenches 100 years ago protecting a young tommy’s keepsakes. They each tell their own story, and just looking at them you can see the small bits of damage, the smells and stains that tell the story of how they survived 100 years to remind us of the soldiers who suffered the extreme conditions of the Great War.

UK 1914 WWI Christmas Princess Mary Tin Silver Five Coin Set1 - The 100 year old tin that was delivered to ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’…
The Princess Mary Christmas tin

With the festive season approaching, it is especially important to remember those soldiers who would have received one of these tins. It’s hard not to think about a young tommy, sitting in his trench on Christmas Day, opening his Princess Mary Christmas tin as carols drifted across No-Man’s Land. 


If you’re interested…

We have a limited number of genuine Christmas Tins available and ready to deliver for Christmas, with 5 coins all from 1918. But with such a limited number available you will need to be quick to own this ultimate Christmas gift… Check out the video to see Adam explain what makes this tin so special or click here to order yours now >>>

The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin

Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest pastimes, with events being captured and passed on for centuries though art, music and dance long before we were writing them down. And one of the oldest and most reliable ways a country can tell its stories is through its coins.

This should come as no surprise. If you think about it, currency is the constant that has always been around in one form or another. It’s continually evolving and adapting to the next chapter in the story.

But there’s one coin in particular that holds more meaning than most – as it blends fact with fiction to produce the world’s most beautiful coin, Una and the Lion.  

Controversial, yet beyond improvement

In 1839 William Wyon was commissioned to design a new coin to commemorate the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation.

But it made headlines. It was controversial.

Una and the Lion origianl Obverse Reverse - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin
Image courtesy of National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.

In a bold move it depicted Queen Victoria as the fictional character Lady Una, from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene. Never before had someone, let alone a ruler, been featured on a coin as a fictional character.

The design shows Lady Una walking alongside her guardian and symbol of England, the lion. It is symbolic of the young monarch leading her vast empire.

Whilst a daring move, the coin was an instant success. Critics hailed it as “beyond improvement”, and to this day it’s regarded as one of the most beautiful coins to have ever been struck.

Part of its beauty was the high relief, providing exquisite intricate detail to the fictional design. But in many ways this was also its downfall, as it meant the coin could not be struck with any consistency. As a result the commemorative was only struck for one year, producing just 400 coins. This makes it extremely rare!    

The inspiration: a princess and her protector

Published in 1590, The Faerie Queene, is one of the longest and most distinguished poems in the English language. It was written during the height of the Renaissance when England had just broken away from the Catholic Church and formed its own Protestant Church. Set against the backdrop of this turbulent religious landscape, The Faerie Queene draws on history and myth to deliver numerous tales of romance, adventure, battles, morality and religion.

Una and the Lion Painting - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin
Una and the Lion, 1860, William Bell Scott

The first book of the epic poem follows the trials and tribulations of Lady Una – the young and beautiful daughter of a king and queen who have been imprisoned by a ferocious dragon. In a bid to save her parents she embarks on a quest, but on her journey she encounters a fierce lion who plans to eat her.

In a twist of events the lion is so captivated by Una’s beauty and innocence that he abandons his plans to eat her, and instead he becomes her protector and companion.

Together, the iconic pair have become a symbol of beauty, strength and endurance.

The most beautiful coin just became even more exquisite

The Royal Mint has just released a brand new UK Una and the Lion 2oz Silver Proof coin, featuring this iconic and highly sought-after design motif.

Una the Lion product images 1 - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin

Finding an original Una and the Lion coin is virtually impossible, so this may be one of the only ways to secure this design motif for your own collection.

But with an edition limit of just 3,000 worldwide, there aren’t many available for collectors.

As an official Royal Mint distributor, we have secured a limited number for Westminster collectors.

Click here to find out more and add this iconic coin to your collection >>  

Unboxing over 200 years of British coin history

The Stories of British Coins Collection includes 16 of the most remarkable coins from over 200 years of British history, but many of them are in high demand and difficult to source, especially those which are historic artefacts in their own right!

Join Adam as he unboxes a fascinating coin collection that together tells the story of Britain.


Find out more and add the set to your collection by clicking here >>

LS UK Stories of British Coins Collection Box Lifestyle 300x208 - Unboxing over 200 years of British coin history