Behind the design: The New £1 Coin

In the last few weeks many of us will have noticed a significant change to our ‘change’ – a new £1 coin. Although it’s entering circulation now, in 2017, the journey of the new £1 coin actually began in 2014, when the new 12-sided coin was first announced. And, in 2014, the public were given a rare opportunity to play a part in bringing the coin into the nation’s pockets with an invitation to submit designs that represented Britain. Heraldic designs, regional landmarks and cultural interpretations of the UK such as fish and chips and cups of tea were among over 6,000 entries submitted by the public, and in the end David Pearce’s design was chosen to symbolise the United Kingdom on the new one pound coin.

David, of Queen Mary’s Grammar School, was just 15 years old when he won the competition. His winning design features the floral emblems of the nations of the United Kingdom – the English rose, the Welsh leek, the Scottish thistle and the Northern Irish shamrock – emerging from one stem within a royal coronet. Now, as the #newpoundcoin starts to appear in our change, we speak to David to find out a little more about his design.

Hi David, tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is David, I’m 17, I live in Walsall and I’m currently in my final year of school studying for my A Levels; Design and Technology, Maths and Geography.

How did your journey with The Royal Mint begin?

Well, my Design Technology teacher in school found out about the public design competition for the new one pound coin and recommended that I entered the competition to widen my portfolio for university admissions. 

What inspired you to enter?

I thought it would be a good opportunity to widen my portfolio, I didn’t really expect to win so I just took my teacher’s advice that it would be a good thing to do; I didn’t expect anything to come from it.

How did you find the process of designing the coin?

OK, I guess. I started with the template, and used the internet to research previous one pound coin designs to see what had been and gone. Because the brief was to design something that represented the UK, I researched symbols of the UK to find elements of heraldry that people would easily recognise as part of the United Kingdom. From there I came up with a few rough ideas and emerged with the one I liked the most. I compiled a few images into a mood-board, which had things such as royal crests, things that were synonymous with the UK, things that tourists would associate with the UK (which were very London-centric) and then flora – it was very diverse but very obvious at the same time. The main idea behind it, because it was the United Kingdom, was to unite the individual nations with a common element, the crown; so the four individual nations are represented by the flora and then united by the crown.

How did you design the coin?

After my research, I started by doing some rough sketches and then worked up my final concept in pencil along with the application form, and that’s pretty much it!

Talk to me about the different elements of the design.

I wanted to put a rose in for England, and to keep in with heraldic traditions I chose to feature a Tudor rose. I chose the leek, the thistle and the shamrock because they’re the most commonly known for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. From an aesthetic point of you, I also felt that the leek would fit in better than the daffodil would, so I chose to feature this instead. The crown is the Royal Coronet, taken roughly from one of the Royal crests.

I am used to drawing more technical drawings as opposed to sketching, so I’m used to producing clearer, more definite lines. For my application I very much went with what I’m comfortable doing which was to get down the clear lines and boundaries so that you knew which bits started and ended where – it’s less fluid which I suppose makes the design more bold and blatant.

Where there any challenges?

I think the hardest part was getting the proportions right, it was all done free hand so this was definitely the part that took the most concentration, this and on the positioning of where the denomination was going to go… and getting something that was presentable. 

Is there anything that we don’t know about the design?

I don’t think so, nothing that’s not obvious. In retrospect, the Headmaster of my school told me that the Tudor rose which I used to represent England in my design, it half features in our school badge so that was something that was completely coincidental and unintentional but it’s something that is on there and a nice link to the school.

So you submitted the design, tell us what happened next

So I kind of forgot about it! I submitted my design and then didn’t really think about it, then I had a phone call from Dr. Kevin Clancy who told me I had been shortlisted. This followed by an invitation a few months later to attend an event in Downing Street for a group of shortlisted entrants. The day before going I was about to go to an English lesson in school and the Deputy Headmaster asked me to go down to the headmaster’s study at lunch time so I went and I was transferred on to a call with the Chancellor at the time, George Osbourne, and that is when I had found out I had won.

How did that all feel? How was Downing Street?

It was all really exciting and it felt a bit surreal – I was quite shocked to speak to the Chancellor, I didn’t really take in who he was. At the time I was just thinking that they’d probably got the wrong design or chose the wrong name or something so that was at the back of my mind until they officially revealed my design. It was exciting, surreal and I felt a lot of doubt as to whether they got the right person, it was just unexpected and I was really relieved when I saw that it was my design as I thought it would be a bit embarrassing to get down there and have to say “that’s not my design!”.

When did it all sink in?

I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet, I think partly at the time when I saw a prototype of the design it did but at the moment I don’t think it fully has, it’s been more talk as opposed to something tangible happening – even when it is released I don’t think it will fully sink in until a bit later on. The school are excited about it, it’s mentioned a lot at open days and things. At the moment I’m just trying to concentrate on my A Levels so for me it’s a secondary thing.

What was the reaction of your family and friends?

I think my mum thought I was lying at the time, that was her immediate reaction but both her and my sister were really happy.

Did you have an interest in coins before?

I think slightly, we had a few collectors edition coins that were interesting, but I wouldn’t say I was a collector.

What’s next? 

Well I’ll see how my A Levels go but hopefully by September/October time I’ll be studying Architecture at University and then I’ll go from there!

I’d like to be an architect. I’m interested in old buildings, especially. Modern buildings can have a lack of character, in my opinion. Many are constructed quickly, lacking much thought to their surroundings. I feel it can work well when older buildings are renovated and brought up-to-date – I particularly like The Shad Thames in London. It’s a block of converted warehouses, quite industrial looking. It’s been modernised but it still retains its original character.

If I could design anything I’d like to design a church or cathedral because I am fascinated by classical architecture. In Edgbaston, Birmingham, there is a wonderful baroque church named The Oratory of St. Philip Neri – the mosaics, images and intricate classical elements create a beautiful, expressive and impressive place, however, quite unfortunately, it is in need of urgent restoration.

Plans for the prize money?

Perhaps towards university.

Is there a part of you that’s looking forward to finding it in your change?

It will be nice when it’s out in circulation because it will finally be out – it’s been a long time coming. I think I will be more excited on the 27th, the night before! I don’t know what will happen exactly, I just want to get by quietly and do as best as I can academically. I suppose over time, given that there’s so many of them it will just become the norm.

Would you design another coin?

I enjoy designing things so I wouldn’t mind designing another coin, so yeah. I like making things, and I think that in studying Architecture it will keep my options open as opposed to say Industrial Design, so I suppose if I change my mind after studying and want to do something else design based I still have the option to be able to do it. All in all, it’s been pretty cool to see the development of the coin and how it gets from a sketch to the real thing. The amount of detailing that goes into everything is amazing, for example, how the dies are polished for hours, by hand, just to be in the correct condition for minting.


The date for your diaries is 28 March, when the new £1 coin will start to enter circulation. Share your #onepoundstory with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For everything you need to know about the new one pound coin, see here.

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