The first King Charles III coins have been revealed – but where's the crown?

King Charles III coins
(Image credit: The Royal Mint)

Perhaps the biggest rebranding in the world is underway as the UK gets to the task of replacing stamps, coins, banknotes and post boxes following the coronation of King Charles III. And it's not just the UK – around the world the image of Queen Elizabeth II is on the currency of at least 15 other countries.

First to see a change will be coins in the UK. They might seem one of the least important things to change considering how much a coin is worth today, but the Royal Mint has revealed its King Charles III coin designs. The internet has some questions, though, so we'll do our best to answer them below. Want to propose an alternative design? Make sure you have the best graphic design software for that.

A Queen Elizabeth II 50p and the new King Charles III 50p

A Queen Elizabeth II 50p and the new King Charles III 50p (Image credit: The Royal Mint)

We've already seen King Charles III's new monogram, which some seem to be confusing with Cristiano Ronaldo's. Now the British Royal Mint has unveiled its first coins to feature King Charles III, with a new 50 pence and a commemorative £5 coin. The image chosen is based on a sculpture of his royal highness's head made by the British sculptor Martin Jennings, which in turn was based on a photo of the new king.

The coins bear the inscription "CHARLES III • D • G • REX • F • D" a shortened form of the Latin for "King Charles III, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith". On the reverse of the 50p is a copy of a design from a 1953 coin that was designed for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. The flip side of the £5 shows two new portraits of the Queen at different stages of her life with the dates of her birth and death. 

The 50p should be in circulation by the end of the year, and the same image will start to appear on all other coin denominations in the United Kingdom early in 2023. But the internet has some questions...

King Charles III coins

The sculptor Martin Jennings (Image credit: The Royal Mint)

Why is King Charles III not wearing a crown on the new coin?

Unlike the various image of Queen Elizabeth II used on coins and stamps throughout her reign, King Charles III appears without a crown. Is it a sign of the cost of living crisis? people on Twitter want to know. Is it a gesture designed to show a more humble approach, like when Pope Francis's rejection of scarlet slippers?

Well before we get too excited reading things into it, it's worth noting that this design decision is in line with previous images of British kings on coins. Some of us are old enough to remember having a few King George V pennies laying around the house. Kings don't wear crowns on coins; Queens do. Queen Victoria wore a crown on coins while King William IV before her didn't. It's called tradition.

"The portrait was sculpted from a photograph of The King, and was inspired by the iconic effigies that have graced Britain's coins over the centuries," Jennings said, noting that the work was the smallest he'd created.

Old British pennies

Penny coins from the reigns of George V (1926) and George VI (1945) (Image credit: Chopin-Ate-Liszt! via Wikipedia Commons)

Why are the King Charles III coins facing the other way?

The other question a lot of people have been asking on Twitter is why the new king is looking in the other direction when compared to Queen Elizabeth II coins. Does it show a change in the Royal perspective? Nope. Again, it's a rule. Each successive monarch must face in the opposite direction to their predecessor.... Usually. Edward VIII overrode the rule because he believed his profile was more flattering when he faced left even though tradition dictated he should face to the right. And, well, he was the king (for a while), so he could decide that.

The release of the King Charles III coins will be a big moment for many in the UK. It may feel like a big change for those who have only ever known Queen Elizabeth II on the nation's currency. Over on Twitter, some aren't too keen on the new coin design, however. "It looks more like Charles Dance than Charles III," one person commented. "It looks more like George Formby," someone else suggested. "Where did all the hair come from, someone wanted to know. And of course, the internet wouldn't be the internet if there weren't also a few memes doing the rounds.

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.