In February 1971 Britain took the historic step of changing its coinage from pounds, shillings and pence to a decimal currency system, with 100 pennies to the pound, which is used today. Known as decimalisation, this change impacted the entire nation, bringing people together as they learnt to master this new money. It was also the start of a new chapter in The Royal Mint’s long history, moving to a site in South Wales to cope with the demands of making billions of new coins.
The 50th anniversary of Decimal Day, or ‘D-Day’ as it became known, falls in February 2021 and, as part of this anniversary celebration, The Royal Mint Museum is hosting a medal design competition open to all undergraduate university students. The anniversary falls on 15th February 2021 and designs for both the obverse and reverse of the medal are being commissioned.
Guidance on the Theme
Students are allowed a free hand to approach the design of the medal in whatever way they wish but the Royal Mint Museums provides some useful guidance:
- Students could consider illustrating the immense change to society that came with decimalisation and the transition from one system to another. Shops, for a time, displayed prices in both pre-decimal and decimal as the British public adapted to the change.
- The units involved in each system could be reflected upon. The pre-decimal system comprised 12d, (pence) in a shilling, 20 shillings in a pound. Therefore, a pre-decimal pound was comprised of 240 pennies as opposed to 100 pennies since decimalisation.
- The dates of the anniversary, 1971 – 2021, could be included, as could the number 50.
- The concept of currency and trade could be explored, and the use of coins in exchange for goods and services.
- The scale of coinage production in readiness for decimalisation.
- The variety of metals used in coin production. The shapes and sizes of the coins including the unusual shape of the 50 pence piece.
- The pre-decimal system had been in use for around 1000 years before the change-over, inspiring a great affection towards the coinage.
How each side of the design complements the other will also be considered by the judges.
Images of pre-decimal and decimal coins as well as more information about the changeover can be found on The Royal Mint Museum’s website.
The medal will be circular with a diameter of 63mm and will be struck in bronze.
In the first instance, students will be required to submit drawings or computer-generated artwork. For this purpose white paper and strong contrasts can be effective but students are free to explore how best to convey the effect of three-dimensions. Areas of shading should only be included to assist in defining how the designs will look in three-dimensions rather than as decorative features, which will not be possible to reproduce on the medal. The purpose for which the designs will be used, that is, as a basis from which to prepare low-relief sculptures, should be borne in mind at all times. Designs that are not presented in this way will be seriously disadvantaged. The submission of sketches of initial ideas is encouraged but designs should be sufficiently clear to convey the aim of creating a medal capable of being produced in multiples.
Designs selected for further development will be converted into three-dimensional artwork either through computer modelling or through the preparation of plaster models. Technical advice will be offered at this stage and, if necessary, responsibility for the translation of artwork into a three-dimensional form can be undertaken by others on behalf of the artist.
There is no limit to the number of designs that may be submitted.
Designs should ideally be presented at A4 size but the precise size and form of presentation is left to the discretion of individual students. Students are encouraged to accompany their designs with brief explanatory notes which will be reproduced for the benefit of the judging panel.
Closing date for entries is 8 January 2021.
Judges and the Prize
All the designs will be inspected by a judging panel comprising Dr Kevin Clancy, Director of The Royal Mint Museum, Gordon Summers, The Royal Mint Chief Engraver, and Stephen Raw, artist and lettering expert. To ensure impartiality, students are asked not to include any initials or identifying marks on their designs, but normally the winning artist will later be allowed to add his or her initials if desired.
The winning artist will receive a prize of £750 and two copies of their medal, struck by The Royal Mint. Examples of the medal will also be retained by The Royal Mint Museum as part of the permanent collection.
For more information and to find the design brief, please visit the Royal Mint Museum’s website.
This isn’t the only activity organised by the Royal Mint Museum on the occasion of Decimal Day: there is also a short-story competition for children!