I thought we would look today at the regular issue version of the £2 coin which has recently become so famous for its commemorative cousins. This design is being replaced by the newer Britannia reverse coin from 2016 although I have not found any in circulation yet.
The current bimetallic £2 coin was introduced in June 1998 and replaced the generally uncirculated monometallic nickel-brass coins which had been minted intermittently since 1986 until 1996. Following inflation through the 1980s and early 1990s, it was felt that there was a need for a larger denomination coin than the pound coin introduced in 1983. The outcome of consultation with various interested parties such as the RNIB was a bimetallic coin which would be more easily identified by those with visual impairments.
The outer ring is made from a nickel-brass alloy (76% copper, 4% nickel and 20% zinc) and the inner plate is a cupro-nickel alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel) and the whole flan measures 28.4mm in diameter.
Although the coins were first released into circulation in June 1998 the Royal Mint started manufacturing them in 1997 but the planned introduction of the coin was delayed to allow vending machine operators to be ready. The release of both 1997 and 1998 versions at once is responsible for the widely held but entirely unwarranted belief that the Rafael Maklouf portrait (1997) of Her Majesty in which she is featured wearing a necklace was in some way a rare coin. The 1998 onwards portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley features no such necklace. However millions of each obverse design entered circulation meaning that the myth of “The Queen wearing a necklace £2 coin” as a rare coin is just that – a myth!
The reverse design of the coin is unchanged from 1997 to 2015 (from 2016 the standard £2 coins will feature Britannia in a design by Antony Dufort). The government held a public competition to design the reverse of the coin with an art teacher from Brudall, Norfolk submitting the winning design which symbolises in a series of concentric rings, the technological progress of man or perhaps the British Isles? The design begins with a device in the outer circle placed on the nickel-brass outer piece which represents the Iron Age and continues centripetally through the Industrial Revolution, the Computer Age and finally the Internet Age at the heart of the design. I think it is quite a pleasing design but I do find it perhaps a little too abstract!
The edge of the coin measures 2.5mm across and is milled with the inscription “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. This quote from Sir Isaac Newton features in a letter the great man wrote in 1676 and demonstrates his humility and appreciation of his contemporary scientists. From 2016 on, the edge inscription will change however to the latin “QUATUOR MARIA VINDICO” reflecting Britain’s seafaring heritage.
It is estimated that there are over 400,000,000 £2 coins in circulation and the large majority are not the commemorative or collectable rare coins most widely reported on but the above ‘plain’ design which is anything but plain and is actually much more intricate than a lot of the rarest £2 coins out there.