In the last months of the First World War, there was a new dawn in the skies as the Royal Air Force (RAF) came into being. Formed at the birth of aviation, bringing together the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Force, the RAF was the world’s first independent air force. Today, 100 years later we mark a century of capability, courage and innovation of the service, its aircraft and of the men and women who serve at home and abroad on UK coins.
To mark the RAF centenary, we have struck five UK £2 coins; four celebrating iconic RAF aircraft – the Spitfire, Vulcan, Sea King and Lightning II – and one inspired by the badge of the RAF. The 2018 RAF badge £2 coin was designed by Royal Mint designer, Rhys Morgan, we recently spoke to Rhys to find out a little more about the inspiration behind his design.
Hi Rhys, tell us a little bit about yourself…
My Name is Rhys Morgan and I am a graphic designer at The Royal Mint. I’ve been interested in art and design since an early age and followed my passion, eventually studying Graphic Communication at the University of South Wales. Since graduating in 2013, I have been fortunate enough to work in the design industry on a variety of different brands and products.
How did your journey with The Royal Mint begin?
I started working at The Royal Mint in the summer of 2014 in the design studio, mainly focusing on producing packaging and campaigns for the coins we strike.
How does coin design differ from your other work?
On a daily basis, the design studio produces concepts for a variety of mediums for different departments around the business. Projects can range from event design and marketing campaigns to creating web assets for the new website.
I think the main difference is I usually work with two-dimensional graphics whereas with coin design you’re constantly looking at three-dimensional graphics. There are different things to be considered in three dimensions such as the height of the design of the coin surface and the overall sculpture of the work.
How did you find it designing a coin, what did you have to do that was perhaps different to normal?
I found it quite challenging to introduce shading and texture into the designs I submitted to the RMAC as it’s not something I do on a regular basis. I submitted rough, flat sketches and ideas which strongly conveyed the theme, and after being shortlisted, I worked with the coin designers at The Royal Mint who helped me consider different options and suggestions which I am very grateful for.
How did you feel about designing the coin to mark this significant RAF anniversary?
It feels great! This is my first ever coin and it couldn’t have been a better fit. I have a personal significance to this coin as there are a number of family members that have been in the RAF and some are still in the forces to this day. My uncle and cousin are currently part of the RAF and have been since an early age. My grandfather also served and spent a lot of his time traveling to different countries and RAF bases around the world.
How did you go about designing this coin? Talk us through the process…
I always had an idea in my head that I wanted to convey the humanitarian aspect of the Royal Air Force instead of focussing on combat and defence.
I originally sketched up different scenarios such as supply drop missions and a mountain rescue teams at work. I struggled to work these into such a small space so I went to the RAF Cosford museum for inspiration.
Whilst at the museum I came across the original RAF Badge. Upon learning more about the history of the badge, I found out that this design was adopted at the first air council meeting in 1918 and later registered with the royal college of arms in the 1920s. Since then, the badge has changed very little. This seemed the perfect way to capture the RAF’s continued strength using the badge to symbolise its resilience over the last 100 years.
Talk us through the different elements of the coin
The main element of this coin apart from the typography is the RAF Badge. The badge is made up of an eagle, a circlet, the RAF motto and the Imperial Crown.
The eagle is a strong and fearless creature of the skies and this perfectly sums up the attitude of the Air Forces’ personnel. The Imperial crown sits proudly on top of the circlet, and the motto wraps around the badge. The wording around the badge ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra’ means ‘Through struggle to the stars’, summing up the ongoing mission of the RAF today
How did you want your design to be received, what did you want it to communicate? And so far, has it been received as well as you’d hoped?
So far the feedback has been great on the coin design, it’s a simple design but I feel it’s the best way to capture the 100 years of the RAF.
I know that this is just a small contribution to the RAF compared to what the personnel do on a day to day basis, but I’d like to think I’ve played a small part in raising awareness of the centenary and the celebrations of the Royal Air Force.
I hope that anyone connected to the RAF shares my excitement for this coin and understand what I’ve tried to convey in this design.
Would you like to design another coin? If so, if you could put anything on it, what would your design be?
I am very interested in sport, particularly rugby, so I think I would like to be involved in something sport related. I would love to design a coin for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in 2019.
How did you feel when you found out you were designing a circulating coin?
It’s a great feeling to find out you’re going to be part of the UK Coinage history. It’s such a massive honour to have my design recognised by the RMAC. It’s one of the proudest moments in my life so far.
What has been the reaction to this whole experience from your friends and family? Were they interested to know that this is how a new coin design comes about?
My friends and family have been so excited and happy for me since I’ve told them. My Grandfather has been the most excited about the coin ever since I told him that my design was chosen. He is very proud of what I’ve achieved and recognises that I will be a part of history. Feedback has been very positive on the coin and I hope coin collectors and RAF personnel share the same feelings.
This article was planned with the MoD/RAF and generated before the tragic incident at RAF Valley that occurred on the 20th March. Our thoughts and feelings go to the families involved.
The RAF badge £2 coin is available to buy now, in Brilliant Uncirculated, Silver Proof, Silver Proof Piedfort and Gold Proof, it will also be released into circulation later this year so be sure to look out for it on your #CoinHunt!