The Royal Mint is celebrating the life and work of one of Britain's most beloved novelists of all time, Jane Austen. 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of her death on the 18th of July, 1817, and the Royal Mint is celebrating her life and contribution to Britain's literary legacy with a new circulating commemorative £2 coin.
Today Jane Austen stands as one of the most important, popular and celebrated novelists of all time. However, this was not always the case and in-fact, she achieved no significant fame at all during her lifetime. Jane was one of eight children born to the Reverend Mr. George Austen and Cassandra Austen(after whom her sister was named), on the 16th of December, 1775.
Following a brief period of formal education she was largely home schooled under the instruction of her father and older brothers. It was during this period that she developed a love for books and was granted unrestricted access to the libraries of her father and that of family friends like Warren Hastings.
Austen's first novels were all published anomalously, under the name “A Lady”. Sense and Sensibility was the first of her novels to be published and saw it's release in 1811. It soon gained favourable reviews and sold very well. The success of Sense and Sensibility paved the way for her career as a published authoress and in the following four years she would publish three additional novels. Pride & Prejudice (which was originally entitled as “First Impressions”) in 1813, Mansfield Park a year later in 1814 and then Emma in 1815.
Due to her declining health and a significant financial setback for her family the publication of her last novels were delayed. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were both posthumously published in 1817. It was only here that Jane Austen was first publicly identified as the author of her works.
In a 2002 poll by the BBC Jane Austen was voted as one of the “100 Most Famous Britons of All Time”, and in 2004 three of her novels were voted into Britain's top 40 “favourite reads” list, with Pride and Prejudice ranking as the second most popular novel. Her work has served as the inspiration for countless books, movies and TV shows.
The reverse design of the bi-metallic £2 coin features a silhouette of Jane Austen, based upon one drawn of her by her sister Cassandra, on the inner disk – taking the form of an antique cameo locket. The outer ring of the coin is patterned to resemble a classic regency-era wallpaper. A reproduction of Jane Austen's signature is scrawled across the centre of the coin, with the words “JANE AUSTEN”, “1817 – 2017” and “TWO POUNDS” encircling the centre design.
The coin's designer, Dominique Evans, explains her choice of a simple and elegant design aesthetic when crafting the commemorative coin :
“I imagined the framed silhouette as if it were in one of the houses featured in Jane Austen’s books, on the wall of a corridor as guests pass by to attend a dance, perhaps in Pride and Prejudice, or on the wall in the home of Emma ”
The obverse of the coin features the standard portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark. Accompanied by the inscription : “2 POUNDS”, “2017”, “ELIZABETH II” “D G REG F D”.
The coin's design is rounded off by an edge inscription that reads : “THERE IS NO DOING WITHOUT MONEY”. This is a partial quote from Northanger Abbey, as spoken by the character Isabella Thorpe.
In addition to the circulating commemorative coin the Royal Mint will be releasing four numismatic versions of the coin for collectors. The first is the brilliant uncirculated version of the circulating coin. Struck from the usual cupro-nickel inner disc and nickel-brass outer ring and measuring 28.4mm(1.118 inch) in diameter. This coin is shipped in a printed Royal Mint blister pack for £10.00(US$12.80) each.
The next coin is a silver version of the same design. This proof quality coin is struck from sterling silver with a fine gold plating around the outer ring to simulate the bi-metallic composition of the circulating coin. Weighing 12 gram(0.4232 oz) in total, the coin has a mintage of 8000 with only 5000 of that total available to order in this single presentation. The remaining amount being reserved for special proof sets. The silver proof coin is being released at a price of £67.50(US$86) each.
Also included in the range is a special piedfort strike of the silver coin. This version is identical in design to the silver proof coin, excepting for the double thick piedfort strike of the coin. Weighing in at 24 gram(0.8465 oz) the coin has a limited mintage of 4000, with only 2500 available to order individually at a price of £110.00(US$140) each.
Rounding off the collection is a ½ oz gold coin where the inner disc is produced from 22ct yellow gold and the outer ring from 22ct red gold. Unlike the silver coins, the gold coin is shipped in a more luxurious glossy display box. With a maximum mintage of 884 coins, The Royal Mint is releasing 750 of the gold coins to order in this limited edition presentation at a cost of £830.00(US$1060) per coin.
An a slight side note, as it were, Jane Austen is set to make history once again as she will become the first person in British history(other than a reigning monarch) to be featured on both a circulating coin and a banknote at the same time. This will happen when the new polymer £10 note is released around September of 2017.
The Royal Mint is described this coin as a tribute to the public's “enduring romance with Jane Austen”. The understated elegance of the design is effective not only in evoking Austen's work but also in producing a visually pleasing coin design. Certainly my favourite coin coming from the Royal Mint for 2017 so far.