In 2008, UK coins underwent an extensive redesign, which changed the reverse designs, and some other details, of all coins except the £2. The original intention was to exclude both the £1 and £2 coins from the redesign because they were “relatively new additions” to the coinage, but it was later decided to include the £1 coin. This was the first wholesale change to British coinage since the first decimal coins were introduced in April 1968, in keeping with an unwritten convention that the coin designs should be changed every 40 years to keep the coinage fresh. The new coins were initially to be put into circulation in early 2008, although they did not actually start to appear until mid-2008.
The major design feature was the introduction of a reverse design shared across six coins (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p), that can be pieced together to form an image of the Royal Shield. This was the first time a coin design had been featured across multiple coins in this way. Completing the set, the new £1 reverse features the Shield in its entirety. The effigy of the Queen, by Ian Rank-Broadley, continues to appear on the obverse of all the coins.
On all coins, the beading (ring of small dots) around the edge of the obverses has been removed. The obverse of the 20p coin has also been amended to incorporate the year, which had been on the reverse of the coin since its introduction in 1982 (giving rise to an unusual issue of a mule version without a date at all). The orientation of both sides of the 50p coin has been rotated through 180 degrees, meaning the “bottom” of the coin is now a corner rather than a flat edge. The numerals showing the decimal value of each coin, previously present on all coins except £2 and £1, have been removed, leaving the values spelled out in words only.
The redesign was the result of a competition launched by the Royal Mint in August 2005, which closed on 14 November 2005. The competition was open to the public and received over 4,000 entries. The winning entry was unveiled on 2 April 2008, designed by Matthew Dent. Dent’s initials can be seen on the new coinage. The Royal Mint stated the new designs were “reflecting a twenty-first century Britain”. An advisor to the Royal Mint described the new coins as “post-modern”, something that could not have been done 50 years previous