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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

61) Commemorating the bicentenary of Charles John Huffam Dickens (07.02.1812- 09.06.1870) A two-Pound U.K coin celebrating his literary contributions during the Victorian era and for all time.

61) Commemorating the bicentenary of Charles John Huffam Dickens (07.02.1812- 09.06.1870)
A two-Pound U.K coin celebrating his literary contributions during the Victorian era and for all time.

Dickens Facts:

v  Charles Dickens was born on 07.02.1812 and spent an idyllic childhood, first in has birth-place Portsmouth and later in Chatham, Kent. Dickens spent the happiest days of his childhood in Chatham (1817-22) where he was sent to school and began reading voraciously. His father John Dickens was a clerk in the Naval Pay Office and amassed huge debts to maintain his family of a wife and 7 children, including Charles. (His father’s character has been immortalized by Charles as the ridiculous, but endearing Mr. Micawber in “David Copperfield”). 

v  The family then moved to London in 1822 where they lived in Camden Town (A flourishing Flea Market – present day). In due course, his father was imprisoned for debt when Charles was 12 years old and he (Charles) had to work in a blacking/shoe polish  factory “Warrens Blacking Factory”, Hungerford Market, London, near Charing Cross Station, on the Thames , pasting labels on bottles  on a pay of six shillings a week, while his family was in Marshalea debtor’s prison in 1824.(I suppose, that in today’s age of more awareness about children/minors and laws against minors doing manual labour/working on a job , Charles may not have found himself at manual work , but then it was a time when there was a great divide between the Nobility/wealthy and the Commoners). By the time his father had been declared insolvent, Charles and his family had faced innumerable hardships which were characterized through his novels, characters and writings. In 1824-27, Charles studied at Wellington House Academy, London, and at Mr. Dawson’s school in 1827.
v  Later, from 1827 to 1828, Dickens found a position as a clerk at the office of Ellis and Blackmore, solicitors at Holborn Court, Gray’s Inn. Realising that Law was not his calling, he studied shorthand and free-lanced as a court reporter at Doctor’s Commons. Charles became deeply interested in social reforms and took up an assignment with “The Mirror of Parliament” (1832-34) and “True Sun” newspaper (1830-32) which was radical in its views and also wrote short stories for the Morning Chronicle (1834-36), under the pen name “Boz” (Sketches by Boz was a collection of his early writings published in 1836). He also contributed to Monthly Magazine and the Evening Chronicle and edited Bentley’s Miscellany (1836). In 1840s he founded Master Humphrey’s Cloak and edited the London Daily News.

v  His insight into life’s experiences born out of the hardships that his family had faced, was given wings by his rich imagination, tremendous humour and keen social sensibilities which went towards his writing stories which were immensely enthralling and brought to life the hardships of the Victorian era leaving the readers on several occasions reflective as well as with a tinge of sadness. 

v  The young Dickens was very good-looking and often described as a fop with his flashy waistcoats, jewellery and flowing long hair. During his lifetime, he was the most famous writer in Europe and America. It is said that when he visited America to deliver a series of lectures in 1842 and later in 1867, his fans followed him everywhere – outside his hotel, in Railway Cars, restaurants, almost like a superstar of today.

v  He is considered the greatest writer of the Victorian era and has some of English literature’s most iconic novels and characters to his credit. During his lifetime his works enjoyed unprecedented popularity and accolades and are equally popular today. His genius gained currency during the mid-nineteenth century when interest in his works was recognized afresh by critics and scholars. 

v  Many of his works were originally published in monthly installments, a format of publication that Dickens himself helped popularise. He often revised his plots and characters on the basis of reader’s responses to a published episode and his readers anxiously looked forward to the next episode – much like the popular “soaps” on today’s television serials.

v  His works have been highly praised by eminent Writers like Leo Tolstoy, George Orwell, and G.K. Chesterton etc. for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterizations and social criticism.

v  His nineteenth century readers included Queen Victoria, Vincent Van Gogh and Karl Marx.

       Philanthropic work:

In May 1846, Dickens set up a home for the redemption of fallen women called “Urania Cottage” in the Lime Grove section of Shepherds Bush. He became involved in many aspects of its day-to-day functioning and scoured prisons and workhouses for rescuing such women. All these women were required to emigrate following their stay in Urania Cottage. It is estimated that at least 100 residents of Urania Cottage graduated and went to live in Canada, America, and Australia etc.

Death and legacy:

From 1860, he lived at Gadshill Place, near Rochester, Kent.

While working on his last unfinished Novel, “Edwin Drood” he passed away at Gadshill on 9th June 1870 at the age of 58, after suffering a stroke a day earlier. Contrary to his wishes to be buried at Rochester Cathedral in an inexpensive, unostentatious manner, he was laid to rest in the “Poet’s Corner” of Westminster Abbey. He had wished that no memorials should be built to honour him. Indeed, the only memorial built for him was in 1891 in Clark Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Upon his death, the London Times in an obituary called him “the greatest instructor of the nineteenth century”.

He continues to be one of the best known and most read of English authors and his works have never gone out of print. Nearly 200 movies and TV adaptations based on his works have been made. 

His story “A Christmas Carol” is probably the best known of his works and still continues to be adapted for stage and T.V. renditions, turned into an opera, ballet and Broadway musical as well as, translated into several different languages. It is a well-loved tale with money and coins as its central theme and carries the joyous message that Christmas is a time for giving and thinking of others. 

When he did his first public reading to an audience of two thousand people in Covent Garden, the text he chose was from “A Christmas Carol”.

Commemorative coin:

A two-Pound Brilliant Uncirculated commemorative coin has been issued by the Royal Mint, U.K. to mark the 200th Anniversary of Dickens’s birth.

The cover of the Album issued by Royal Mint, U.K.

The obverse has the Queen’s portrait by Ian-Rank Broadley with the words” ELIZABETH II D.G.REG.FID.DEF. (meaning: Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith”) 2012 TWO POUNDS” on the periphery of the coin.

The reverse has his profile outline, created by Matthew Dent, from the titles of Dickens’ famous works, from his early writings “Sketches by Boz”, to his final and unfinished novel “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”. Taken from David Copperfield, the words on the edge inscription are those of one of the characters Mr. Micawber (said to portray Charles’ father):“SOMETHING WILL TURN UP”

His Works:

It is not surprising that coins and money are the recurring themes in many of Charles Dickens’s works, as he knew both wealth and poverty during his colourful life.

In 1833, Charles’ first story “A Dinner at Poplar Walk” was published in the London periodical “Monthly Magazine”.

His first success came at the age of twenty-five with his first novel “Pickwick Papers” which was well received and made him one of the foremost writers of his time. This was followed by two more novels “Oliver Twist” and “The Life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby” (1839). He grew increasingly somber in his later works. “A Tale of Two Cities” described through its storyline the horrors of the French Revolution, as well as immense sacrifices, the lucid narration transporting the reader to the times which the story depicts and leaves a sad, brutal image of the ultimate sacrifice at the end.

His popular Novels were: “The Pickwick Papers” (1836 – Stories about a group of somewhat odd individuals and their travels to Ipswich, Rochester and Bath etc.)  “Oliver Twist” (which appeared in monthly installments from 1837 to 1839 and depicts the London Underworld and hard years of the foundling Oliver Twist), “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” (which too came out in installments from 1838 to 1839 and is a story about young Nickleby’s struggles to seek his fortune), “The Old Curiosity Shop” (1840-41), Barnaby Rudge: A tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty” (1841), “Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit”(1844), “Dombey and Son” (1848),“David Copperfield”(1849-50 in which Dickens used his own personal experiences of work in a shoe-polish factory), Bleak House(1852-53),  “Hard Times”(1854), “Little Dorrit”,“A Tale of two Cities” (1859 – set in the years of the French Revolution – A tale of unrequited love and the ultimate sacrifice when the Revolution was “eating up” its erstwhile oppressors criticized often for lack of any humour), “Great Expectations” (1860-61 written in a comic manner), “Our Mutual Friend”, the story of Pip (Philip Pirrip) and the unfinished mystery novel “The mystery of Edwin Drood”.(published in 1870, in the year that Charles passed away).

Some of his well known short stories were: “A Message from the Sea”, “Doctor Marigold”, George Silverman’s Explanation”, “Going into Society”, Holiday Romance”, “Hunted Down”, Mrs.Lirriper’s Legacy”, Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings”, Mugby Junction”, “Somebody’s Luggage”, “Some Short Christmas Stories”, Sunday Under Three Heads”, “The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain”, “The Holly Tree Three Branches”, “The Lamplighter”, The Perils of Certain English Prisoners”, The Seven Poor Travellers”, “The Wreck of Golden Mary”, and “Tom Tiddler’s  Ground”.

Some other popular works of Dickens are : “A Child’s History of England”, “A Christmas Carol”, “A House to let”, “ American Notes for General Circulation”, “Master Humphrey’s Clock”, “Miscellaneous Papers”, “Mudfog and Other Sketches”, “No Thoroughfare”, “ Pictures from Italy”, “Reprinted Pieces”, Sketches by Boz”, Sketches of Young Couples”, “Sketches of Young Gentlemen”, “Speeches: Literary and Social by Charles Dickens”, “ The Battle of Life”, “The Chimes”, “ The Cricket on the Hearth”, “ The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices”, “ The Uncommercial Traveller”, “Three Ghost Stories: The Haunted House”, “Three Ghost Stories: The Signal Man”, “ Three Ghost Stories: The Trial For Murder to be read at Dusk”.

Although he is well-known for his novels and short stories, he wrote several essays and edited and re-wrote hundreds of other works submitted to periodicals which he edited. He distinguished himself as an essayist in 1834 under the pseudonym “BOZ”.
“A Visit to Newgate” (1836 reflects his memories of visiting his family in the Marshalea Prison) and his experience during this period, also found a mention in his novel “Little Doritt” (1855-57).  In “A Small Star in the East” (he wrote about the working conditions on mills) and in “Mr. Barlow” (1869 – he drew a profile of an insensitive tutor/teacher).

During the 1840s, he spent much time travelling and campaigning against the social ills of his time. He also wrote pamphlets, plays and letters.

In 1850s he was the Founding Editor of his own Magazine “Household World” and its successor “All the Year Round” (1859-70). 


British Crown Dependencies:

1) Specimen Banknotes from the States of Jersey

2) Coinage and Currency from the States of Jersey

3) Currency & Coinage of the Bailiwick of Guernsey

4) Currency & Coinage of Gibraltar : An Overseas Territory of Great Britain

5) Coinage of Gibraltar: (A British Overseas Territory): An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by the Tower Mint, UK in 2010
6) The Isle of Man: An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by Pobjoy Mint, UK in 2015

7) The Centenary of the ill-fated Titanic (15.04.1912 - 15.04.2012): An Alderney Five Pound Coin Commemorating the Maritime Legend

8) "Man of Steel": A Superman Movie: A set of stamps brought out in 2013 by Jersey post, the States of Jersey, commemorating Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill who played Superman in the Movie

9) Coins & Currency of Bermuda

10) The Bailiwick of Jersey - Presently circulating coinage - Pounds and Pence 

11) St. Helena & Ascension Islands: An Uncirculated Coin Set from 2003 

12) The Legend of the "HMAV Bounty" is interwoven with the heritage of the Pitcairn Islands: An uncirculated coin set from Pitcairn Islands in 2009 depicting the icons/relics of the Bounty minted by the New Zealand Mint 

Famous Battles

1) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to St. Helena: (Part I): A One Crown Commemorative coin issued by the Ascension Island (minted by Pobjoy Mint UK) 

2) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to st. Helena: (Part II) 1) A 5 GBP Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK. 2) A"Drie Landen Zilverset" ( ot the "Three Lands Silver set") containing coins issued by the Royal Dutch Mint including coins of Netherlands, Belgium and UK

3) Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain by issuing a 50 Pence coin by the Royal Mint UK

Gold Coins:
1) Gold Sovereigns issued in 2013 & 2014 by MMTC-PAMP in India under licence from the Royal Mint, UK, carrying the "I" Mint Mark

2) Gold Half-Sovereigns minted by MMTC-PAMP in India in 2014 under licence from the Royal Mint UK bearing the "I" Mint Mark 

Silver Coins:

1) A 20 Pound Silver coin minted for the first timr by the royal Mint UK: reverse design carries the famous St. George slaying the dragon design found on Gold Sovereigns 

British India Coinage:

 1) East India Company Quarter Anna Copper Coin which is one of the first issues under the Coinage Act 1835

2) Victoria Coinage: When she was Queen and afterwards Empress

3) Edward VII: King & Emperor  Coinage

4) George V King Emperor Coinage

5) George VI: The last of the British India Emperors Coinage 

Other British Royalty: 

1) Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (1952-2012): A Five Pound Commemorative coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK

2) Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953: A Five Pound Coin minted by the Royal Mint UK in 2013, depicting the Imperial State Crown

3) The Royal Coat of Arms of the UK: Great British 2012 Coin Set (Uncirculated) issued by the Royal Mint UK

4) Prince George's Christening Ceremony celebrated with coins issued by the Royal Mint UK in 2013

5) The British Empire:  A Case of Numismatic "segregation": (Guest Post by Rahul Kumar)

6) 1) The Portrait Collection: Various Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II on Coinage 2) The Fourth & Final Circulating coinage of the Portrait designed by Ian Rank-Broadley and the First Edition of the portrait of the Queen made by Jody Clark

 British Coinage:

1) The contribution of the Great British One-Pound coins in keeping alive the historical legends/emblems/heritage of the UK (1983 onwards)

2) Transformation of a Five shilling Coin (Crown) into the UK Twenty-five Pence & then the Five Pound Coin

3) Transformation of the Two Shilling Coin (Florin) Coin into the UK Ten Pence

4) The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea: A Two Pound Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK celebrating the milestone

 Commemorative British Coinage:

 1) Commemorating the Bicentenary of Charles Dickens: A Two pound coin celebrating his literary contributions during the Victorian Era

 2) Commemorating 50 Years of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - presently called the World Wide Fund for Nature by issue of a Fifty Pence coin by the Royal Mint, UK

3) Coins commemorating London Olympics & Paralympics (2012)

4) Commemorating 150 Years of the London Underground : Two pound Coins minted by the Royal Mint UK, showing the "Roundel" logo and a train emerging from a tunnel 

5) Commemorating the 100th Birth anniversary of Christopher Ironside with his" Royal Arms" design on a 50 Pence coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK 

6) 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta - the Universal Guidepost to Liberty and Freedom

Inspirations from Scottish History: 

1) The Legend of King Bruce & the Spider on Banknotes

Banknotes from Scotland:
1) Commemorating Sir William Arrol and his creation the Forth Rail Bridge by issues of Britain's first ever 5 Pound Polymer Banknote


  1. Nice post.. you must be an avid reader of Charles Dickens... I have come in possession of this coin collected from circulation in UK a few days back.. and the design, engraving detail and quality is quite breath-taking. It feels worth Rupees 200 when holding this coin!

    1. Thank you Rahul. I sure have a lot of Charles Dickens books/classic Illustrated comics in my library on his works for the past four/five decades or so. There were not many takers for this coin, but I had to have it in my collection. The Royal Mint UK sent it to me free of postal charges.