Will the pound change when the Queen dies?

At age 94 the Queen has reigned since 1952 with all currency issued during that time, including pre-decimal and decimal, depicting a portrait of her on it. When the Queen passes it will be a day of mourning for millions not only in the UK but around the world. In this article we explore what exactly will happen to the design on the currency after the Queen passes.

When the Queen passes not only the pound coin but all UK currency will have to change its design to update the portrait shown on it.

As with the Queen’s father George VI, the former King of England, a new portrait will come into circulation to be portrayed on the currency when the Monarch passes. As the Duke of Edinburgh is not in line for succession, the title of King will fall to Charles, Prince of Wales. Upon receiving the Crown a new portrait will be made of Charles and the Royal Mint will begin issuing coins with the new design. The coins with Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait will continue to be issued for the remainder of the year or perhaps longer, and after which the new portrait will come into circulation. But what happens to the old coins and notes?

How will it all work?

The latest portrait currently in circulation is the Jody Clark portrait, shown below, which was issued in 2015. Whilst technically the 4th portrait of the Queen that can be found in circulation today, there are actually 5 portraits in total that have been used since the Queen came to the throne in 1952.

The Jody Clark Queen Elizabeth Portrait
Jody Clark Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II [credit]
The first portrait, known as the Mary Gillick portrait, was discontinued after decimalisation to better help the new decimal currency to stand out from the old currency. Similarly to how this portrait was discontinued, the same will happen to the design when the Queen passes, although under much more unfortunate circumstances.

Rather than all of the current coins and notes being handed in, the process will be a gradual one and many of the coins featuring portraits of Queen Elizabeth II will remain in circulation for many years to come. Banks and post offices will issue new design coins and notes, and collect the older versions, easing the country into the new designs.

It will be very similar to what happened following George VI’s death in 1952, although there will be one major difference. At that time there were still a number of coins minted using silver which were hoarded following the succession of the throne by the Queen. At this time there are no circulating UK coins minted in precious metals, so there will be much less hoarding of certain coins.

The practical fact of the matter is that 99% of the population will not bat an eye at the new designs being used, and it is probably just us coin collectors who will be eager to see what new designs await.

Which other countries will be affected?

According to Guinness World Records, Queen Elizabeth II features on the coinage of at least 35 different countries, so what happens when she is succeeded?

As head of the Commonwealth, the portrait of the Queen is not just used on currency in the United Kingdom but on many of the countries in the commonwealth. For example, the Queen appears on the Canadian $20 bill and the Australian dollar coin. These designs will also have to change alongside the British pound, but the process will be much more gradual in these countries. The main reason for this is that it is much easier to enforce a new design in the country where it originates, rather than in other countries where different jurisdiction may take place.

Some of the other countries that will be affected include Fiji, New Zealand, Cyprus and the Bahamas. There are many more of course, but this is just to name a few. The design of coinage and notes featuring the Queen in other countries will likely remain for years after she passes, honouring her legacy throughout the world.

How much currency will there be to change to the new design?

According to the Bank of England, there are over 3.9 billion Bank of England notes currently in circulation with a value of around £71 billion pounds.

The value of bank notes in circulation has increased yearly and most recently by the £20 and £50 pound notes and will continue to do so, but what about coins?

According to the Royal Mint, there are approximately 29 billion coins in circulation in the United Kingdom

It is clear to see that the process of changing the design will not happen overnight, due to the sheer volume of currency in circulation. It is quite likely, in fact almost a certainty, that the Queen Elizabeth II designs may remain in circulation for years after the succession of the throne.

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