Royalty on Coins

We all use coins to pay for things, but how closely do you look at them? All the coins that we use in this country today have a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on them. If you look at coins from the past you will find that they have a picture of the king or queen that was on the throne at the time they were made.

In the past that picture had an important role. In the days before television and photography, the picture on a coin may have been the only picture of their king or queen that many people ever saw. Putting your picture on a coin was a good way of making sure that your subjects new who you were and what you looked like.

Queen Victoria was only 18 years old when she came to the throne in 1837. She reigned for 64 years. By looking at the coins that were produced during her reign, you can see how her appearance changed throughout her life. However it is interesting to note that on the last coin that was minted for Queen Victoria, when she was 75 years old, she looks considerably younger than on a coin produced eight years earlier! 'Mint' is the name of the place were coins are made. Some coins have a 'Mint Mark' which let's historians know where a coin was made, or 'minted'.

In 1887 Queen Victoria celebrated her golden jubilee after 50 years on the throne. For jubilee year a new set of silver and gold coins was produced including the florin or two-shilling piece. Although the coins were beautifully made many people disliked them. The reason was that they thought the queen's portrait made her look old and grumpy and that the little crown perched on top of her head made her look silly as well. As a result the design was changed a few years later.

Queen Victoria Coin Queen Victoria Coin Queen Victoria Coin

Related Timelines

World History - Money


  1. Look carefully at some coins. Find the date on them and then line them up in order of the date they were made. Look at the picture of the Queen on each of them. How many different images of the Queen can you find?
  2. Look at the money timeline. When machine-striking of coins replaced striking by hand in the 1630s some very realistic portraits appeared. Compare the image of King William the Lion on the Scottish Silver Penny made in 1165, with the image of William II on the Scottish Silver 20 Shillings coin made in 1698. What do you see is different?
  3. When Queen Victoria came to the throne, Britain had a number of overseas colonies, including Australia, Canada and parts of India. Victoria was queen of about one quarter of the world's population. See if you can find which countries used her portrait on their coins.