Una and the Lion returns

In 2019, The Royal Mint launched The Great Engravers, a new collection honouring prominent artists from the mint’s past. The first in the series is ‘Una and the Lion’, a coin of stunning artistry and beautifully intricate detail celebrating its engraver William Wyon, RA (1795-1851). For this edition, the coin was reverse engineered using dies remastered from the original and brought back to life using modern minting techniques. Struck in gold and silver and finished to the finest Proof standard, it both commemorates and breathes new life into the original coin.

Master engraver William Wyon
To this day, Wyon is revered by academics and collectors around the world as one of the finest engravers ever to have designed British coins. He is best-known for his many coin and medal portraits of Queen Victoria, who first sat for him at the age of 13 as a young princess. Her ‘Young Head’ portrait, approved for coinage in 1838, established him as one of the most highly regarded medallists of the Neoclassical style. This portrait is used on the obverse side of the commemorative five pound coin ‘Una and the Lion’ issued in 1839, celebrating young Victoria’s coronation at the age of 18 in 1837.

It is not surprising that this coin, encompassing a combination of Wyon’s artistry and the historically admired queen whose reign coincided with the height of the British Empire’s power, has been a favourite of generations of collectors. Earlier this year, a NGC65 grade 1839 Five Pound coin was sold for more than £620,000 at a Japanese auction, illustrating the status of the coin as a symbol of wealth and prestige.

Story and symbolism

Una and the Lion (1860), by William Bell Scott
Reverse view of Una and the Lion 2019 two-ounce gold proof

The literary design of ‘Una and the Lion’ derives from the English poem, The Faerie Queen, written by Edmund Spenser and first published in 1590. The allegorical work features many characters including female warriors, knights and dragons while highlighting various morals to promote ‘virtuous and gentle discipline.’ In the poem, Lady Una, a symbol of truth and the new Church of England, embarks on a mission to save her parents from a vicious dragon. Along the way she befriends a wild lion whom she disarms with her beauty and innocence and becomes her protector. In Wyon’s work, the image of Una represents Queen Victoria, the young ruler and head of the Church, calmly leading a strong nation symbolised by the lion. The Latin legend, ‘Dieige Deus Gressus Meos’ reads as a prayer for the young sovereign, translating to: ‘May the Lord direct my steps.’

Minting the coin
In 1810, a new facility had opened at Tower Hill (located on the River Thames in East London, the home of the Royal Mint from 1809-1967) equipped with steam-powered technology — a proud reflection of Britain’s industrial strength. While this enabled sophisticated coin production, Wyon was still required to recreate his magnificent design for the tiny die entirely by hand, an astonishing accomplishment for the period.

In reproducing his masterpiece for the 2019 release, an enlarged version of the pattern was used to create a 300mm diameter plastic mould. Then, Royal Mint craftsmen refined the intricate details, removing historical blemishes along the way. The new mould was then saved digitally before the die was cut and struck after meticulous hand-polishing.

Advanced machinery has brought the modern coin’s finish to new heights — while carefully preserving Wyon’s deft touch. On the obverse side is Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Jody Clarke. The coin’s renewal is both a technological masterpiece and proudly carries forward the history it holds within.

The 2019 edition issued a £5,000 gold proof 5kg coin with a diameter of 175mm, measuring the largest coin ever produced by the Royal Mint at the time. This was followed by a £2,000 gold proof 2kg coin, a £1,000 gold proof 1kg coin, a £500 gold proof 5oz coin, a £200 gold proof 2oz coin, and a £5 silver proof 2oz coin. Only one of the 5kg was produced and sold to an undisclosed buyer. The limited mintage has resulted in resale prices immediately tripling after launch, giving an indication that it is likely to emulate the cult-like following and sky-rocketing valuation of its 1839 predecessor.

Also part of this collection, the Commonwealth Mint produced an Alderney (Channel Islands) issue of £100 silver 1kg proof and £5 gold proof coins — both with a limited mintage of 400, the same as the original1839 Una. Additionally, the Commonwealth Mint issued a three-coin set of full, half-ounce and quarter-ounce gold sovereigns, and Hattons of London produced an Alderney £20 gold proof coin with a mintage of 63, and a £50 gold proof coin with a mintage of 20.












2019年のエディションでは当時のロイヤルミント史上最大のサイズである 直径175mm、£5000ポンド額面の5kg金プルーフが発行されました。さらに£2000ポンドの2kg金プルーフコイン、£1000ポンドの1kg金プルーフコイン、£500の5オンス金プルーフコイン、£200の2オンス金プルーフコインと£5ポンドの2オンス銀プルーフコインが発行されています。5kg金プルーフコインは一枚だけ作られ、未公表のバイヤーに購入されました。