King George VI Coronation 1937 Silver Medal: A Collector’s Guide

The King George VI Coronation 1937 Silver Medal represents a pivotal moment in British history, celebrated across the Commonwealth and memorialised through various mediums, including the issuance of a special coronation medal by the Royal Mint. This event not only marked the beginning of a new era following the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, but it also served to unify a nation on the brink of world conflict. The coronation medals, struck in silver, are treasured pieces of history that capture the essence of this significant event. Collectors and historians alike seek out these medals, not just for their material value, but for their profound connection to a historical event that shaped the modern United Kingdom.

This article delves into the intricacies of the King George VI coronation 1937 silver medal, exploring its historical significance, design features, and the broader context of its issue. It provides a detailed overview for collectors on how to discern the value of these medals, compares them with other British coronation medals, and offers insights into the process of collecting such royal memorabilia. By understanding the story behind the medal, its artistic merits, and its place within a wider collection of coronation memorabilia, enthusiasts can appreciate the full spectrum of its historical and collectable significance.

The Historical Significance of the 1937 Coronation Silver Medal

Background of King George VI’s Coronation

The coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth on May 12, 1937, was not just a ceremonial transfer of power, but a significant national event following the unexpected abdication of Edward VIII. This event solidified George VI’s role as a symbol of stability at a time when the United Kingdom was on the brink of global conflict. The decision to maintain the original coronation date set for Edward VIII underscores the continuity and resilience expected in British monarchy, reflecting a seamless transition during a period of potential upheaval.

The Tradition of Coronation Medals in British History

Since King Edward VI in 1547, British monarchs have commemorated their coronations with medals, a tradition that offers a tangible connection to these historic events. These medals serve not only as collectibles but as artefacts that encapsulate the cultural and political atmospheres of their times. The 1937 coronation medal, therefore, holds a dual significance: it commemorates George VI’s ascension and marks a historical pivot at a time when the identity and global stance of the British Empire were evolving.

The Role of the 1937 Coronation Medal in British Numismatics

The 1937 Coronation Silver Medal is a key piece in the realm of British numismatics, offering insights into the era’s artistic and minting practices. Struck by the Royal Mint, which has a history dating back over 1,100 years, these medals not only celebrate King George VI’s coronation but also exemplify the craftsmanship and innovation of their time. The involvement of notable artists in the medal’s design highlights the importance placed on commemorating royal milestones with a blend of tradition and artistic expression.

Design and Features of the 1937 Coronation Silver Medal

Description of the Medal’s Artwork

The 1937 Coronation Silver Medal showcases conjoined crowned busts of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, facing left. This design, marked by the initials ‘VB’ on the shoulder, reflects the royal dignity and unity of the monarchy. The reverse features an enamel shield of arms in high relief at the centre, surrounded by a raised border inscribed with “BIRMINGHAM AND DIST WORKS AMATEUR FOOTBALL ASSN,” and stamped sterling on the lower field, indicating its high-quality silver alloy composition.

The Artist Behind the Medal’s Design

Percy Metcalfe, a renowned artist, was responsible for the medal’s design. Metcalfe’s work is celebrated for its clean lines and striking imagery, as seen in other notable works such as the 1935 ‘Rocking Horse’ Crown and the coinage of the Irish Free State. His initials ‘PM’ appear on the shoulders of the figures on both the obverse and reverse of the medal, attesting to his artistic contribution.

Symbolism Embedded in the Medal’s Imagery

The imagery on the medal is laden with symbolism. The conjoined busts symbolise the united front of the monarchy at a time of impending global conflict, while the enamel shield represents the strength and protection of the British Empire. The detailed craftsmanship and choice of symbols reflect both the historical importance of King George VI’s coronation and the artistic trends of the time, making this medal a significant collectable item in British numismatics.

King George VI Coronation Silver Medal 1937 reverse

Collecting the 1937 Coronation Silver Medal

Collecting the 1937 King George VI Coronation Silver Medal involves understanding its value, authenticity, and proper care. This medal, designed by Percy Metcalfe and struck in .925 silver, features intricate details on both sides, with the obverse showing King George VI and the reverse depicting Queen Elizabeth. The medal weighs 16 grams and has a diameter of 31 mm, aspects that contribute to its desirability among collectors.

Factors Affecting the Medal’s Value

The value of the 1937 Coronation Silver Medal can vary significantly based on its condition, which ranges from Good/Extremely Fine (G/EF) to items with minor knocks. Provenance and originality also play crucial roles, with prices for an original piece reaching up to £125.00 GBP.

Where to Find and How to Authenticate Genuine Pieces

Collectors can acquire these medals from specialised dealers or auctions. Authenticating a genuine 1937 Coronation Medal involves verifying details like the artist’s initials and the specific engravings for both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Engraving options, often a service provided for medals, include personal details engraved on the medal’s edge or back, adhering to specific formatting protocols.

Care and Preservation Tips for Collectors

To preserve the integrity and appearance of the 1937 Coronation Silver Medal, collectors should handle the medals with care, ideally wearing gloves to prevent oils from the skin from tarnishing the silver. Storing the medal in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight is also advisable to prevent any damage or wear over time.

Comparison with Other British Coronation Medals

Key Differences Between the 1937 Medal and Other Coronation Medals

The 1937 Coronation Silver Medal, marking King George VI’s coronation, stands distinct from earlier British coronation medals in several aspects. Unlike the medals for King Edward VIII, which were unofficial and hastily minted due to his abdication, the 1937 medals were officially issued and meticulously designed by Percy Metcalfe. This contrast highlights a shift from the emergency measures of 1937 to a more planned and celebrated issuance.

Evolution of Design and Symbolism in Coronation Medals through the Ages

Since the tradition began in 1547, coronation medals have evolved significantly. The design initiated during King James I’s reign in 1603, featuring Latin inscriptions, set a precedent for incorporating meaningful symbolism. Over the centuries, designs have varied from simple inscriptions to intricate depictions of monarchs, reflecting both artistic trends and the political climate at the time of each coronation.

The Collectibility and Investment Potential of Different Coronation Medals

Coronation medals vary in collectibility and value, influenced by their historical context and rarity. For instance, the medals from Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation, numbering around 130,000, are less rare than those from earlier coronations, affecting their market value. Collectors often seek medals with significant historical impact or those associated with pivotal events, enhancing their investment potential over time.


Through examining the historical essence, design intricacies, and the emblematic significance of the King George VI coronation 1937 silver medal, we’ve uncovered a fragment of British history that stands as a testament to a pivotal era. This article has navigated through the narrative of King George VI’s ascension to the throne, the artistic innovation of Percy Metcalfe’s designs, and the broader implications of collecting such a monumental piece. By appreciating the dual significance of the medal – both as a collector’s item and a historical artefact – enthusiasts gain insight into the fabric of a story woven through Britain’s royal legacy and numismatic culture.

These medals, beyond their silver content or artistic merit, encapsulate a moment of unity and transition for Britain, offering a tangible connection to the past and a reflection on the values and challenges of that time. For collectors, understanding the provenance, authenticity, and preservation of these pieces is not just about enhancing a collection but about honouring the legacy of a monarchy that has withstood the test of time. As we consider the broader implications and investment potential of coronation medals, we’re reminded of the importance of preserving history through collecting, inviting further research and appreciation for generations to come.

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