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Saturday, 4 January 2014

129) A Twenty Pound silver coin issued for the first time by the Royal Mint U.K.: Reverse design carries the familiar St. George slaying the Dragon seen on gold sovereigns:

129) A Twenty Pound silver coin issued for the first time by the Royal Mint U.K.: Reverse design carries the familiar St. George slaying the Dragon seen on gold sovereigns:

The legends of St. George and the Dragon:

 The “Golden Legend”:

 A tenth century legend called the “Golden legend” refers to a fictional place called “Lasia” or “Silene” in Libya, where an Emperor called Selinus ruled.  In a pond located in the city, lived a plague-bearing dragon which had envenomed the whole area and spread a plague upon the people. To appease the dragon, the residents of Silene presented it with two sheep every day and when their sheep had all been consumed by the dragon, they began feeding it their children, chosen by lottery (since there was no Emergency help number 911 for the children nor were there any child protection services, these being the so-called “Dark Ages”, so the parents thought, better the little “tykes” be eaten by the Dragon than they themselves). 

No one cared about the little children, until the King’s own daughter called “Sabra” got chosen as the Dragon’s meal for the day. So, like in modern times, unless a VVIP’s relative/son/daughter is involved, no one in authority is bothered about the lot of commoners, the King, distraught with grief, requested the townspeople that she be spared and anyone else was welcome to take her place. 

For good measure he was prepared to throw in all his gold and silver, as well as half his kingdom, but as the lottery was fairly and squarely won by the King’s daughter, there were no takers for his proposal – VVIP or not!! So, the King’s daughter was dressed up as a “bride” and led out to the Lake for the Dragon to feast on her.

Saint George chanced by the Lake, (having travelled over water and land from afar) and on seeing the trembling VVIP “Maid in Distress”, vowed to stay and defend the princess against the Dragon, much against her protestations that the Dragon was a very powerful creature and no one could fight him and live. 

The Dragon happened to come by for his “Feast” and caught the two of them conversing with each other. St. George on seeing the dragon, fortified himself with the “Sign of the Cross”, charged at the Dragon on his trusted steed, with his lance called “Ascalon” and inflicted a grievous wound upon the Dragon. St. George, then, shouted to the princess to throw him her girdle which he put around the dragon’s neck. 

Apparently, the dragon’s “flame-thrower” was out of order when this skirmish took place, so it couldn’t do anything much because he had no “fire-power”, therefore it had no option left, except to follow the Princess like a meek beast on a leash back to Silene (much like “horrible baddies” who start begging for their lives once their “gang” has been eliminated by an Action Movie’s Hero). 

Once St. George and the Princess led the Dragon back to Silene, St. George called out the King and the towns-people and told them that if they became Christians and got baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The King and 15000 men who were present at the scene immediately embraced Christianity and were baptised, (without women and children, who had stayed home for fear of the dragon) and George slew the Dragon and its quartered body was carted out of the city in four ox-carts (Apparently no one gave the poor bound Dragon a thought who had by now almost become domiciled – particularly as there was no PETA or SPCA, for the atrocity committed against a bound and helpless animal, the so-called “Dragon”). 

At the site of the Dragon’s slaying, the King built a Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. George and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease in the land.

The above is an  image of St. George slaying the dragon.

An alternative legend tells of St. George travelling by land & sea for many months till he reached Libya. He met a poor hermit who spoke of the land being ravaged by a Dragon and mentioned, that,  the Dragon was demanding the sacrifice of a beautiful maiden on a daily basis. 

Now, as only the King’s daughter remained, she would be the last one to be sacrificed, unless, someone, perhaps a knight like George, would slay the Dragon and saved her (See no one thinks of saving you unless you are a VVIP!!). As an added incentive, the hermit added that the King would give his daughter in marriage to the champion who overcame this “terrible monster”. 

George was all the more determined to save the Princess Sabra and on seeing the beautiful princess at the head of a ladies’ procession on her way to meet the Dragon, told her to return to the King’s palace and went on ahead to confront the Dragon.  

 The Dragon charged at George with a loud thunder-like roar. It is said that its tail was 50 feet long and it had very tough scales. George’s lance broke into several pieces with the impact as he struck the Dragon. The impact was so hard that George fell from his steed but recovered himself and struck the beast with his sword, but the Dragon poured poison on him and his armour split into two. 

Fortunately his sword was still intact and he charged the dragon and struck it in a vulnerable area which had no scales, killing it. (Also, fortunately for everyone, otherwise the legend may have been reworded as “The Dragon and St. George”).

A third legend places the scene of action in the village of Wormingford in Essex, England. The Dragon is believed to be a crocodile that escaped from Richard I, was fond of carrying away and eating small children and was slain in the River Stour by Sir George Marney of Layer de Haye, who killed the “dragon” (crocodile) with his lance. The church in Wormingford, dedicated to St. Andrew, has a stained glass window depicting this episode. 

Be that as it may, St. George is regarded as the patron Saint of England, and the East India Company’s first fort/establishment in India, at Madras (present day Chennai – “Fort St. George”) was named after him.

About Benedetto Pistrucci (20.05.1783 – 16.09.1855):

He was a distinguished Italian gem engraver who held the position of Chief medallist and was a coin engraver at the Royal Mint in England. He could not be appointed as the Chief engraver, despite being more than competent for the Post, because of his foreign origin. 

Nevertheless, the Royal Mint reached a compromise by appointing a local native to the post of Chief engraver and giving the assignment of Chief Medallist to Pistrucci in 1828.

Pistrucci created the famous St. George & the Dragon design used on British gold “Sovereigns” (The “Sovereign” is a gold coin of the United Kingdom last minted in 1604, the name was revived with the Great Recoinage of 1816. Minting of new Sovereigns began in 1817. Sovereigns were minted in the U.K from 1817 to 1917, 1925 and from 1957 onwards. They were also minted in Australia, India, Canada and South Africa) and silver “Crowns” (the “British Crown” was initially a sterling silver coin which replaced the “English Crown” and the Scottish dollar” upon the Union of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in 1707. 

Its value was equivalent to five shillings) first seen during the Great Recoinage of 1816 (the Great Recoinage of 1816 was resorted to by the British Government to restabilise their currency following the economic difficulties brought about by the French Revolutionary Wars – 1792 to 1802 – and the Napoleonic Wars – 1803 to 1815. The massive Recoinage programme was carried out by the Royal Mint, which minted standard gold Sovereigns, circulating crowns and half crowns depicting the famous image of St. George & the Dragon by Benedetto Pistrucci). 

He made the dies for the coinage from 1817 onwards. The Crowns were issued in 1818, 1819 and 1820. Meanwhile, Sovereigns bearing the St. George & the Dragon design appeared from 1817-1820, as did half-sovereigns. In addition, in 1820, he engraved a George III Five Pound piece, of which only 25 pieces were initially minted, but upon the passing away of the King, quite a few more were minted by the Royal Mint, U.K. 

One of the Gold Sovereign coins from my collection, which is only a representative specimen of such coins issued all over the British Empire, is given below:

Obverse of a sovereign issued in 1930.  The coin has the legend " GEORGIVS V D.G.REG.BRITT:OMN:REX F.D.IND.IMP"surrounding the bust . 

The legend means "George V by the Grace of God, King of all the Britons, defender of the Faith, Emperor of India".

The initials of the designer of the obverse side image are on the right hand side of the neck of the bust.
Reverse side of the same coin. The image shows St.George slaying the dragon.The initials of the mint which made it "SA" are on the mound below St.George and the initials of the designer of the reverse side of the coin are below the right side of the mound. This coin was issued in Pretoria mint in 1930, South Africa, during the lot minted from 1929-1932.

A standard sovereign has the following specifications: Weight-7.99 gms, diameter - 21.8 mm, thickness- 1.52 mm, fineness-22 carat or 91.67%, gold content - 7.32 gms or 0.2354 troy ounces.

In February 2013, A partnership has been forged between the Royal Mint, U.K. and MMTC – PAMP , India to mint the Royal Mint’s gold sovereign commemorative coins in India for the first time in nearly a 100 years. This will give access to the Indian public to purchase genuine versions of the sovereign.  These gold coins will all carry the “I” mint mark. The last time genuine commemorative sovereigns were minted were at the Mumbai mint in 1918, when the Royal mint operated a branch mint in India for a single year during which 1.3 million sovereigns were struck. This is also a boost to the Royal Mint, U.K. which is re-entering the biggest gold market in the World – India. 

This coin image and description is also placed on the Indian Coins of George V on this blog, link as follows:

Pistrucci also engraved the early coins of George IV’s reign which included double sovereigns (in 1823), Half Sovereigns (1821, 1823-25), Crown (1821-22) Pattern Crown etc.

Pistrucci stopped working on coinage in 1825, but continued working as a Medallist till 1849. He is well known for the coronation medal of King George IV, the silver seal for the Duchy of Lancaster and his most famous medal the “Waterloo Medal” which took him over thirty years to complete.

20 Pound coins issued by the Royal Mint for the first time containing the famous design of Benedetto Pistrucci:

Reverse of the coin placed in a coin-card containing the twenty Pound silver coin which has been issued for the first time by the Royal Mint, U.K. This face of the coin card shows a silhouette of the Union Jack in the background, the logo of the Royal Mint in the upper right hand corner. In the centre is the reverse of the coin showing Benedetto Pistucci’s famous design of St. George slaying the dragon. The initials “BP” appear below the image on the right hand side honouring the legendary designer of the Royal Mint. Further below is the year of issue “2013”.

The Reverse of the above coin shown on a stand-alone basis.

The obverse face of the coin with an image of St. George slaying the dragon. The inscription on this coin is “ELIZABETH II DG REG FD” (meaning “Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen”) and “TWENTY POUNDS”). The initials of the obverse side portrait of the Queen’s designer “IRB” (Ian-Rank Broadley) appear below the bust of the Queen.

The Obverse of the coin on a stand alone basis.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 27.00 mm; Weight: 15.71 gms ; Metal Composition:.999 Fine silver; Quality : Brilliant Uncirculated. Mintage: 250000 coins.

(This coin is from the collection of Jayant Biswas. I too have got this coin ordered to the address of a friend’s relative in the U.K. and it will be received by me at some future date, for my collection. This coin has since been received by me courtesy of Ajit George, during my recent visit to Chennai in March 2014).


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

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