The Story Behind the Emergency Penny – Kings Norton Edition

The Emergency Penny, particularly the Kings Norton Edition, holds a pivotal place in the realm of numismatics, presenting a rare glimpse into the annals of British coinage history. Originating from the Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England, this penny is not only a collector’s dream but also a legendary piece representing an era of emergency coin production between 1912 and 1919, symbolizing both scarcity and historic significance.

This ancient coin, distinct with its ‘H’ mint mark, offers more than just a piece of the past; it serves as an educational journey into the legacy of emergency pennies, their cultural and economic impact, and their revered status among collectibles. Its vibrant packaging and detailed backstory invite both seasoned and aspiring collectors to explore the legends and lore surrounding this rare penny value, thus enriching their historic coin collection.

The Historical Context of the Emergency Penny

The Kings Norton Mint, stepping into the annals of British numismatics during a pivotal period, embarked on a venture that would etch its name in history. In 1918 and 1919, amid the turmoil of World War I, the Royal Mint found its capacities stretched, necessitating the enlistment of external mints to fulfill the demand for coinage. The Kings Norton Mint, previously uninvolved in striking coins for the Royal Mint, was contracted to produce pennies, marking a significant departure from tradition. This arrangement was not only a testament to the exigencies of war but also highlighted the adaptability of the nation’s monetary production systems.

  • 1918-1919 Production: The Kings Norton Mint exclusively produced pennies in these years, identifiable by the distinctive ‘KN’ mintmark to the left of the date. This marked the first instance of the mint striking currency for the Royal Mint.
    • 1918 KN Penny Mintage: Approximately 3,660,800
    • 1919 KN Penny Mintage: Approximately 5,209,600
  • Historic Rarity: The pennies minted during these years are considered conditionally rare, with their creation being a direct response to the emergency needs of the time. Their rarity is further accentuated by a unique incident involving British West Africa penny blanks, leading to the creation of a singular coin, which after several hands, was verified by the Royal Mint in 2000 as genuine and sold for £6,200 in 2013.

The Kings Norton Mint’s involvement in penny production during this critical period not only provided a solution to the Royal Mint’s capacity issues but also introduced competition to the Heaton Mint, marking a significant chapter in the history of British coinage. This initiative underlines the adaptability and innovation within the realm of numismatics, showcasing how historical events can shape and redefine the course of coin minting and collection.

Design and Symbolism

The Kings Norton Edition of the Emergency Penny is a testament to the intricate art of coinage, encapsulating a rich tapestry of history and craftsmanship. Central to its allure are the design and symbolism that adorn this historic penny:

  • Mint Mark and Material:
    • Each penny proudly bears the ‘KN’ mint mark to the left of the date, signifying its production at the Kings Norton Mint.
    • Composed of bronze, the coin weighs 9.45g and measures 30.86mm in diameter, embodying the robustness and durability of early 20th-century coinage.
  • Designers and Symbolism:
    • The reverse design, crafted by Leonard Charles Wyon, and the obverse design, by Bertram MacKennal, together present a coin of exceptional aesthetic and historical value.
    • Featuring Britannia, the personification of Britain, the design harks back to AD 119 during Emperor Hadrian’s reign, symbolizing the nation’s enduring spirit and sovereignty.
    • The evolution of the penny’s design, including modifications by George William de Saulles in 1895, reflects the dynamic nature of British identity and heritage.
  • Evolution of Imagery:
    • The penny’s design journey, from the depiction of Liberty and the ‘Indian head’ to the introduction of President Abraham Lincoln’s portrait in 1909, mirrors the evolving cultural and political landscape of the time.
    • The transition to featuring a ‘Union Shield’ on the reverse since 2010 further underscores the penny’s role in narrating the story of unity and democracy.
Emergency Penny – Kings Norton reverse
Emergency Penny – Kings Norton obverse

This section intricately details how the Emergency Penny from Kings Norton embodies not just monetary value but also a profound narrative of Britain’s historical and cultural evolution, captured through the lens of numismatics.

The Legacy of the Emergency Penny in Kings Norton

The legacy of the Emergency Penny, particularly those minted by the Kings Norton Mint, is a tale of rarity and global influence that continues to captivate numismatists and historians alike. Unlike their counterparts from the Birmingham Mint, Kings Norton pennies, especially the ‘George V, Penny (Kings Norton) 1918 Fine,’ are notably rarer, making them a prized possession for collectors. This scarcity is underscored by the mint’s extensive production for an impressive array of at least 89 countries, spanning continents from Algeria to Zimbabwe, showcasing its global footprint in the numismatic world.

The Kings Norton Mint Collection, with its inception in 1889, played a pivotal role in the mint’s legacy, retaining specimen coins and proofs for their “King’s Norton Collection.” This practice not only preserved the mint’s craftsmanship but also evolved into a significant compilation of specimens and proofs made for various countries. The collection, which was eventually absorbed into the Birmingham Mint Co., represents a rich tapestry of the mint’s history and its contributions to coinage worldwide.

In 2003, the numismatic market witnessed the introduction of very rare coin issues from the Birmingham Mint, including sample coins and limited quantities from halted production orders. Among these, the presence of numerous Irish pieces was particularly striking, revealing that the Central Bank of Ireland relied on sub-contracting some of its coin production to Kings Norton well beyond the establishment of the Irish Mint. This not only highlights the mint’s capacity for high-quality coin production but also its adaptability and significance in the broader context of global numismatics.

Cultural and Economic Impact

This exploration into the Emergency Penny’s cultural and economic repercussions reveals the intricate dance between preserving historical artifacts and navigating contemporary financial realities, showcasing the penny’s role not just as currency but as a symbol of broader societal values and challenges.


Through the journey from its inception at the Kings Norton Mint to its status as a cherished artifact within the numismatic sphere, the Emergency Penny embodies a crucial chapter in the annals of British and global coinage history. The exploration of its production, distinctive rarity, and the pivotal role it played during a time of dire need not only highlights its intrinsic value but also casts a spotlight on the broader implications of its existence. As we have seen, the legacy of the Emergency Penny transcends its monetary worth, serving as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of minting practices in the face of adversity while significantly influencing both cultural narratives and economic discussions.

The contemplation of the Kings Norton Edition Emergency Penny invites further reflection on the relationship between historical artifacts and their contemporary relevance. It underscores the significance of preserving such pieces not merely for their collectible appeal but for their capability to educate and inspire future generations. As we consider the impacts of these artifacts on numismatics, cultural heritage, and economic paradigms, it becomes clear that the story of the Emergency Penny is far from just a footnote in history. Instead, it presents an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present, encouraging a deeper appreciation of our shared heritage and its influence on our understanding of value, history, and identity.

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