A COIN to commemorate the nativity has been designed for the Royal Mint by the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron. It is to be a fine silver coin with a value of £20. The Bishop, a coin-collecting enthusiast and amateur artist, said he believed he was the first bishop to design a coin, and that this was the first coin ever struck to mark the nativity.
Bishop Cameron had entered a competition last year to design the new 12-sided £1 coin. His design, which featured heraldic beasts from the four corners of the United Kingdom, did not win, but it was used for the last “round pound” instead. And its success led to a commission from the Royal Mint.
The Bishop said: “I was approached at the beginning of this year to submit designs for a possible nativity coin. I don’t know why I was chosen as one of those approached on this occasion — I hope that it was because they liked my last round pound enough to think I might be able to come up with something suitable.”
He submitted two designs, he said, and in July he was told that the one featuring the Virgin Mary presenting the Christ Child to the Wise Men had been chosen. “I then had to work with a Royal Mint engraver to turn my design into a bas-relief for a coin. It would be nice to think that it was the start of a long-term collaboration, because I’ve enjoyed the process on both coins, but that is in [the Mint’s] hands.”
Bishop Gregory’s interests in coins and coin design started when, as a child, he was given a “Churchill crown” marking Winston Churchill’s death in 1965. He began designing coats of arms and collecting pennies, and is now a well-known figure in the field of numismatics, the study and collection of coins. The Christmas £20 coin is commemorative; so, although it is legal tender, it will not be accepted in banks or shops, and will appeal mostly to collectors. A specially designed booklet will be issued with 30,000 of the coins.
Bishop Cameron said: “The big prize with any coin design would be to have one that goes into general circulation. To think that you might be out with the family, and suddenly someone says, ‘Oh, look! There’s one of Dad’s coins!’ . . . although the truth is that I’m just delighted that the Mint has come back to me after the initial coin.”
He said that he hoped the Christmas coin — like Christmas stamps — might become a regular feature for the Royal Mint.