150th anniversary of the London Tube

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January 17, 2013 – 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the London Underground and to celebrate, The Royal Mint has struck two £2 coins designed by internationally acclaimed designers.

Each of the new £2 coin designs encapsulates elements of the architecture, poster art, logo and map of the London Underground to create two impressive coins in honour of the world’s first underground railway. These UK coins will be highly desirable to millions of London tourists, Londoners who travel the Underground every day as well as design and transport fans and UK £2 coin collectors. They will also appear in circulation in 2013 so people will be able to collect them from their change in the New Year.

Great Britain / 2 GBP / Cupro-nickel (alloy inner), nickel-brass (alloy outer) / 12.00 g / 28.40 mm / Design: Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby (reverse), Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS (obverse) / Mintage: Unlimited

The ‘train’ coin, designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby who designed the world-famous London 2012 Olympic Torch, depicts the front of the familiar Tube train emerging from a tunnel and carries an unusual patterned edge inspired by Harry Beck’s iconic Tube map.

Commenting on their design, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby said, ‘We are honoured to be part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. As well as being the oldest underground railway in the world, as an organisation it has been highly progressive, commissioning pioneering engineering, architecture and art.
The £2 coin was the perfect choice; its form is naturally reminiscent of the Roundel that has become the universal logo of the London Underground.’

The nickname “Tube” comes from the almost circular tube-like tunnels through which the small profile trains travel. This photograph shows a northbound Northern Line train leaving a tunnel mouth just north of Hendon Central station. Photo: Wikipedia.

The coin depicts an approaching train with the outer ring of the coin used graphically to suggest the tunnel wall. The rails traverse the outer ring, contradicting conventions of a concentric frame, while a line references the ‘exergue’ in classical coins.

When considering symbolic representations of the London Underground, the designers found that an image of the front of a train appearing from the darkness of a tunnel represents what many people consider to be the ‘face’ of the London Underground.

The train referenced in the artwork is the 1967 Victoria line train, chosen for two reasons: the designers’ affinity to the aesthetic simplicity it represents; and the wide recognition of this train due to the iconic status it has gained over the years.

London Underground map from 1908. Source: Wikipedia.

A subtle graphic detail inset around the coin edge represents the London Underground line with a number of stations, the last of which conceals the initials ‘B’ and ‘O’ as the Barber Osgerby signature.

The Tube emerging from the tunnel symbolically celebrates the Underground’s transition between the past and the future.

Great Britain / 2 GBP / Cupro-nickel (alloy inner), nickel-brass (alloy outer) / 12.00 g / 28.40 mm / Design: Edwina Ellis (reverse), Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS (obverse) / Mintage: Unlimited.

The ‘roundel’ coin, which has been created by British designer Edwina Ellis, whose graphic work includes the design of the Bridge series of four UK £1 coins, bears the London Underground roundel logo which first appeared on Underground station platforms in 1908 – in 1916 Edward Johnson added the official Underground typeface to the bar. The coin features an edge inscription heralding the famous advice: MIND THE GAP.

The London Underground sign for Westminster tube station against the Big Ben clock tower of the Houses of Parliament in 2002. Photo: Yottanesia / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

Speaking about her coin design, Edwina Ellis said, “I shuffled various elements from a treasure trove of graphics, imagery and engineering that forms one of the oldest extant corporate identities. Edward Johnson’s 1916 lettering and his 1920 bulls-eye logo still represent the Underground.”

The obverse of both UK £2 coins features the current portrait of Her Majesty The Queen by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS.

The 150th Anniversary of the London Underground 2013 UK £2 Two-Coin Set, struck to Brilliant Uncirculated quality, is displayed in a beautiful presentation folder that includes a large fold-out full-colour poster specially designed with ‘Tales from the Tube’, facts from each of the London Underground lines; maps and corresponding UK coinage that shows its evolution over the last 150 years.

More information about the 150th Anniversary of the London Underground 2013 UK Brilliant Uncirculated £2 Two-Coin Set, precious metal versions and the 14-Coin Collection are available from The Royal Mint’s website.

This is the official Transport for London website.

And this is the much funnier, award-winning London underground blog.

To listen to the famous Mind the Gap announcement, please click here.

And if you are interested in learning more about the history of the Tube and, particularly, about disused stations you should visit Underground History.