Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) recently certified one of only two known Great Britain 1950 pattern crowns with a grade of Mint State-63.
The 1950 pattern crowns were struck as the U.K. prepared to release a new crown coin in 1951 after a 13-year hiatus. The 1951 crown was to be the first struck in copper-nickel; earlier crowns were minted in silver. It would also feature an edge inscription to celebrate the Festival of Britain, a large exhibition that would be held that summer.
The use of a new composition as well as the addition of edge lettering made it necessary for the Royal Mint to conduct extensive tests. Coins that are struck to test a new design or composition are called “patterns,” while coins that are struck to test dies are called “trials.”; however, this distinction can be difficult to make when the mint is testing each of the above as was the case with the 1950 pattern crowns.
In the modern era, patterns and trials are almost always retained or destroyed by the mint. Two of the 1950 crown patterns, however, are now known to exist in private collections, and one was recently submitted to NGC for authentication and grading.
AN UNUSUAL EDGE
The 1950 Crown patterns were struck before the 1951 Festival of Britain dies were completed. The Royal Mint used leftover 1937 crown obverse and reverse dies as well as an edge lettering collar previously used to strike Maria Theresa Thaler restrikes in the 1940s.
Besides its unusual edge, this test piece also features the number “120” delicately etched into the obverse field in front of King George’s face. This number was hand-engraved by Royal Mint staff after the piece was made to represent the tonnage setting of the press used to strike it. This engraving helped the workers differentiate between the various test pieces.
NOT KNOWN UNTIL 1998
The trials struck in 1950 to prepare for the 1951 crown were not known to numismatists until they were reported by Stephen Hill in the Numismatic Circular in October 1998, nearly five decades after their creation. A mint worker likely saved these pieces from destruction at the time and they were later acquired by numismatists.
Today, these interesting and important numismatic artifacts provide a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Royal Mint in the mid-20th century.