With the Battle of Waterloo reaching its 200th Anniversary this year, I have come across some fascinating commemoratives which have been issued to mark the historic event. However, there was one in particular that really caught my eye and has an intriguing story behind it…

pistrucci - The medal 30 years in the making...

Benedetto Pistucci was commissioned to design The Battle of Waterloo medal..

It all started in 1815 when The Royal Mint was commissioned by the Duke of Wellington to strike a medal honouring the leaders of the allied nations following the Battle of Waterloo.

The medal was to be of the grandest scale, finished with outstanding detail – a task perfectly suited to Royal Mint Chief Medalist Bendetto Pistrucci – whose proposed design was chosen from a shortlist.

Pistrucci was a masterful engraver with a mercurial personality. He had already completed a stunning design of St George and the Dragon (which famously still graces the Sovereign today).  His design for the medal looked set to be one of the greatest ever undertaken…

But, there was a problem

Pistrucci was under the impression that Master of the Mint, William Wellsley-Pole, had promised him the position of Chief Engraver at the Royal Mint.  However, as a result of politics and infighting at the Mint, it became apparent his ambitions would never be fulfilled.

In fact he soon recognised that once he had completed the Waterloo medal, The Royal Mint was sure to cut all ties with him.  Determined not to let this happen, Pistrucci took his time, and prolonged the project – by 30 years.

By the time the dies were completed, all the intended recipients were dead, except for Wellington himself.

The end result was one of the most magnificent pieces of medallic art ever seen, but this wasn’t the end of the story. Pistrucci’s dies were so large and complicated that they proved impossible to harden and the medal that had taken three decades to complete was never even struck.

So the ill-fated Waterloo medal remains one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of The Royal Mint, and is still talked about to this day – despite the fact it never even made it to production!

Now the medal has been made…
st waterloo 200th pistrucci medal web images - The medal 30 years in the making...
Using the latest minting technology, a small batch of just 495 replica medals have been made for the anniversary year of The Battle of Waterloo. We still have some available if you’re interested, click here for details.

Last year was a vintage year for coin collecting.  We saw technological advances, new minting techniques and even a stampede to own the year’s standout US gold coin. In light of this I thought you’d like a rundown of my top 7 extraordinary coins of 2014…

The highest-relief silver 5oz coin ever struck by The Royal Canadian Mint…

canada 5oz silver proof high relief maple leaf - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

The highest relief 5oz coin ever struck by the Royal Canadian Mint

The 2014 Canada 5oz Silver Proof High-Relief Maple Leaf $50 is almost like a sculpture! To achieve this, technically enhanced tooling was created especially to sustain the additional minting pressure involved.  I’m forever astonished by the impressive weight and size of 5oz coins, and with such high-relief detail, this one was a particular favourite.

The London Tower Bridge Silver Coin Bar…

london tower bridge - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

The London Tower Bridge Coin Bar, showing truly incredible craftsmanship.

London’s Tower Bridge is one of the world’s most famous landmarks, and now it has been immortalised on a meticulously crafted silver ‘coin bar.’  This unusually shaped coin boasts remarkable craftsmanship with a surprising level of detail for its size. In fact I consider this coin to be one of the most finely engraved coins that I have seen, making it a truly exceptional issue.


You could add the world’s most famous painting to your collection…

mona lisa - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

The world’s most famous painting – on a silver coin bar.

The Mona Lisa is of course instantly recognisable, but in 2014 collectors got the chance to own their very own version. This distinctive rectangular silver coin is perfectly suited to show off the famous painting in the best way possible. The Mona Lisa is richly detailed in colour and it was the first time that I had ever seen a piece that combined numismatics with art in such a striking way.


The coin with a hidden secret…

earth coin - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

A UV torch reveals a hidden secret

I was mesmerised when I first saw this coin – because of the hidden secret you can reveal. Representing our home planet, the coin features a beautiful image of Earth surrounded by all eight planets in our solar system. But, all isn’t as it seems, as Earth has been highlighted with special ink so that when a UV light is shone upon the coin the planet is picked out, glowing blue against the rest of the background. For that reason this coin just had to be among my top 7 of the year.

The coin that caused a modern-day gold rush…

jfk gold proof half dollar - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

The coin that cased a gold rush

Remarkably, the 2014 JFK Gold Proof Half Dollar caused a stampede of collectors. The US Mint released the coin at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in August which saw hundreds of collectors queuing, running and trampling each other just to get their hands on one. Eventually, the Mint was forced to suspend sales to ensure the safety of their customers and employees. The rush was so intense that the police were called to calm things down. Don’t believe me? See for yourself! (click here to watch the YouTube footage)

Marking a poignant year with a charitable commemorative…

poppy - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

The coin that sold 80,000 in two weeks

The ceramic poppy display at the Tower of London last year was a momentous dedication to the fallen, which inspired the nation. A ‘100 Poppies’ £5 Coin was also issued to mark the centenary of the First World War. For each sale, a donation was made to the Royal British Legion to support their work and provide financial, social and emotional support to all those who have served and are currently serving in the Armed Forces, and their families. The coin was an unprecedented success – alone raising over £40,000 for the Royal British Legion. It’s not surprising that this coin is no longer available, and having helped to raise such a large amount for the Royal British Legion there is no question about it being one of my top coins of 2014.

Struck using a metal rarer than platinum…

chinea yuan - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

A metal more precious that platinum

What makes this edition of the 2014 China Silver Panda Coin so special is the fact that it is plated with a metal even rarer than platinum – ruthenium.  The Chinese 10 Yuan is already one of the world’s most sought after silver coins – but this collectable edition tips the bar by combining three of the world’s precious most metals, silver, gold and black ruthenium.  Featuring both a famous design and a one-off finish, it isn’t difficult to understand why the edition limit sold out so fast. The few collectors who own this issue will appreciate just how lucky they are to know that there’s a chance this specification may never be available again.

Of course these are just a handful of the fascinating coins issued last year, and it’s this variety which makes coin collecting so compelling for me. Many have sold out now, but fortunately 2015 is already proving to be just as interesting.  Did you manage to add any to your collection?

If you are interested…

london tower bridge - My top 7 most extraordinary coins of 2014

There is still an opportunity to own one of these coins. With limited stock left, The London Tower Bridge coin is still available to own.

Click here


mg 2598 - The story behind the Winston Churchill £5 Coin

Plaster engraving of the new Churchill effigy

This year a brand new £5 coin has been issued to commemorate Sir Winston Churchill, and it features a never-seen-before effigy of the great man.

Designed by renowned sculptor and artist David Cornell FRSA, the new portrait shows a defiant Churchill in military uniform.

I’ve been given a behind the scenes look at the creation of the portrait, and had a quick chat with the artist himself.

David Cornell is perhaps more famous for sculpting members of the Royal family, (he was even commissioned to paint a birthday portrait of the Queen) so I thought I’d ask him about his inspiration behind the new design:

img 0598west2 - The story behind the Winston Churchill £5 Coin

David Cornell FRSA working on the new effigy of Sir Winston Churchill

“Winston Churchill was a major part of my childhood growing up in London during the War, hearing his speeches and seeing photos on posters, which left an indelible impression on me.

“I realised later what a great man he was and his contribution to the War effort, inspiring the people of Great Britain.

“As a portrait artist, it has been a great honour for me to be able to portray him in this tribute to honour his legacy.”

First of all Cornell worked on a plaster engraving of the portrait, making sure it fits the very particular dimensions of a coin.  You can see the fine detail in the picture above, and also the large size of the plaster, which has to be reduced when the die is created to strike the coin.

winston churchill jersey c2a35 coin - The story behind the Winston Churchill £5 Coin

The finished Winston Churchill Jersey £5 Coin

The finished £5 coin also features an inscription of one of Churchill’s famous speeches: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’  Although spoken in reference to the heroes of the Battle of Britain, the quotation was chosen as it represents Churchill’s indomitable spirit during the war.

The coin has been issued on behalf of the Bailiwick of Jersey, and is available now in a range of metals – from an impressive 5oz 22 carat gold version measuring 2 1/2 inches in diameter, to a highly collectable cupro-nickel version available to all.  I’m sure you’ll agree, it will make a fitting tribute in any collection to our greatest ever Prime Minister.

If you are interested…

the winston churchill c2a35 proof coin boxed - The story behind the Winston Churchill £5 Coin

The new Winston Churchill £5 Coin is available now in a special limited edition Proof version.  Complete with Presentation Case and Certificate of Authenticity.

NOW SOLD OUT – For other Churchill coins please click here