The British two pound (£2) coin is a denomination of the pound sterling. Its obverse has featured the profile of Queen Elizabeth II since the coin’s introduction. Three different portraits of the Queen have been used, with the current design by Jody Clark being introduced in 2015. The reverse design features Britannia.
The coin was introduced on 15 June 1998 (coins minted 1997) after a review of the United Kingdom's coinage decided that a general-circulation £2 coin was needed. The new Bi-metallic coin design replaced a series of commemorative, uni-metallic coins which were issued between 1986 and 1996 to celebrate special occasions. Although legal tender, these coins have never been common in everyday circulation.
As of March 2014 there were an estimated 417 million £2 coins in circulation with an estimated face value of £834 million.
The original reverse of the coin, designed by Bruce Rushin, is an abstract design symbolising the history of technological achievement, accompanied by the words TWO POUNDS above, and the year of minting below. This was the first bi-metallic coin to be produced for circulation in Britain since the tin farthing with a copper plug produced in 1692, and is the highest denomination coin in common circulation in the UK. The coin consists of an outer yellow metal nickel-brass ring made from 76% copper, 20% zinc, and 4% nickel, and an inner steel-coloured cupro-nickel disc made from 75% copper, 25% nickel. The coin weighs 12 grams and is 28.4 millimetres in diameter.
The design itself was first tried out in 1994 when the Royal Mint produced a short run of demonstration pieces to the new bi-metal standard. These pieces were not for circulation and were simply intended to test the manufacturing process. The coin was technically similar to the version which eventually entered circulation with the Maklouf effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and the image of a sailing ship similar to that previously used on the reverse of the pre-decimal halfpenny piece. The inscription on the reverse read ROYAL MINT TRIAL 1994 with an edge inscription based on the one pound coin which read DECUS ET TUTAMEN ANNO REGNI XLVI, meaning "An ornament and a safeguard – in the 46th year of her reign". The 1994 pieces were never legal tender but were eventually released for sale as part of a presentation set in 1998. At the same time in 1994 the Royal Mint produced a mono-metallic trial two-pound coin, with the same ship reverse and inscription, but otherwise similar to the earlier commemorative coins. These were never issued in presentation sets, and so are much scarcer than the bi-metallic version.
Because of technical difficulties, the 1997-dated coins, which bear the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Raphael Maklouf, were not released to circulation until June 1998 (the same time as the 1998-dated coins). 1998 and later dated coins bear the effigy of the Queen by Ian Rank-Broadley. The Maklouf-effigy coins bear the inscription ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA F D[n 1] on the obverse; the Rank-Broadley coins bear the inscription ELIZABETH II DEI GRA REG FID DEF.[n 1]
The reverse of the regular-issue coin, designed by Bruce Rushin, bears a concentric design symbolically representing technological development from the Iron Age, through the Industrial Revolution and the Electronic Age to the Internet, with the inscription TWO POUNDS above the design and the date below. An oddity of the design is that it depicts nineteen interlocking gears. Because there is an odd number of them, the mechanism could not actually turn. The coin has the edge inscription STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS, a quote taken from a letter by Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke, in which he describes how his work was built on the knowledge of those that had gone before him. "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." (Newton was Warden and later Master of the Royal Mint.)
In February 2015, the Royal Mint announced a new design featuring Britannia by Antony Dufort replacing the previous design. The new coins will feature the edge inscription QUATUOR MARIA VINDICO, meaning "I will claim the four seas", an inscription previously featured on coins bearing the image of Britannia.
The comparative rarity of the Maklouf-effigy coins ("the ones with the necklace") has led to an urban myth that they are much more valuable than the other coins, but this is not true – there were over 13 million 1997-dated £2 coins issued. Another urban myth about the coin is that putting it in the freezer overnight causes the cupro-nickel centre to pop out, a claim which had been true of some early mintings of the similarly bimetallic Canadian 2 dollar coin.
In addition to the standard designs there have been several variant reverse designs used on the £2 coin to commemorate important events. These are summarised in the table below.
|1986||XIII Commonwealth Games||Cross of St Andrew, crown of laurel leaves and Scottish Thistle||XIII COMMONWEALTH GAMES JULY 1986||Norman Sillman|
|1989||Tercentenary of the Bill of Rights||Cypher of 'W&M' (King William and Queen Mary) interlaced surmounting a horizontal Parliamentary Mace and representation of the Royal Crown above and the dates 1689 and 1989 below, all within the inscription 'Tercentenary of the Bill of Rights'||None (milled)||John Lobban|
|1989||Tercentenary of the Claim of Right||Cypher of 'W&M' (King William and Queen Mary) interlaced surmounting a horizontal Parliamentary Mace and representation of the Royal Crown above and the dates 1689 and 1989 below, all within the inscription 'Tercentenary of the Claim of Right'||None (milled)||John Lobban|
|1994||Tercentenary of the Bank of England||The Bank's Corporate Seal including the Crown and Cypher of King William and Queen Mary and the dates 1694–1994||SIC VOS NON VOBIS
(Translation > "Thus we do, but not for ourselves")
|1995||50th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War||A stylised representation of a Dove as the symbol of peace||1945 IN PEACE GOODWILL 1995||John Mills|
|1995||50th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations||50th anniversary symbol of United Nations and a fanning pattern of flags with the inscription NATIONS UNITED FOR PEACE above and the dates '1945–1995' below||None (milled)||Michael Rizzello|
|1996||10th European Football Championship||A stylised representation of a football, with the date of 1996 centrally placed and encircled by sixteen small rings||TENTH EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP||John Mills|
|1999||1999 Rugby World Cup||Design depicts a stadium, on which is superimposed a rugby ball and goalpost. The date '1999' above separated by goal-posts from the value 'TWO POUNDS' below||Rugby World Cup 1999||Ron Dutton|
|2001||100th Anniversary of Marconi's 1st Wireless Transmission across the Atlantic||Radio waves decorating centre and outer border while a spark of electricity linking the zeros of the date represents the generation of the signal||WIRELESS BRIDGES THE ATLANTIC...MARCONI 1901...||Robert Evans|
|2002||XVII Commonwealth Games in Manchester||Stylised figure of an athlete holding a banner and the inscription XVII Commonwealth Games 2002. Behind the athlete is a circle containing a flag – there are four different versions of this coin, each with one of the flags of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England in this circle||SPIRIT OF FRIENDSHIP, MANCHESTER 2002||Matthew Bonaccorsi|
|2003||50th Anniversary of the discovery of DNA||A representation of the double helical structure of DNA with the words DNA Double Helix above and 'TWO POUNDS' and the dates '1953–2003' below||DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID||John Mills|
|2004||200th Anniversary of the first steam locomotive by Richard Trevithick||A representation of a steam locomotive engine with the words 'TWO POUNDS' above and inside a cog wheel, the words R.TREVITHICK 1804 INVENTION INDUSTRY PROGRESS 2004 as a circumscription||None (milled with an incuse railway line motif)||Robert Lowe|
|2005||400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot||An arrangement of crossiers, maces and swords surrounded by stars and the dates 1605 & 2005. Denomination TWO POUNDS below||REMEMBER REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER||Peter Forster|
|2005||60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day||Design depicts St Paul's Cathedral illuminated by searchlights and the value 'TWO POUNDS' sbove and the dates 1945–2005 below||In Victory Magnanimity in Peace Goodwill||Bob Elderton|
|2006||Bicentennial of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel||Depiction of a section of the roof of Paddington Station with the dates 2006 above and the name BRUNEL to the right and the denomination TWO POUNDS below||SO MANY IRONS IN THE FIRE||Robert Evans|
|2006||Bicentennial of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel||A portrait of Isambard Kingdom Brunel with two of his engineering achievements, encircled by a chain with the denomination TWO POUNDS above and the date 2006 below||1806–1859 ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL ENGINEER||Rod Kelly|
|2007||Tercentenary of the Act of Union between England and Scotland||A design dividing the coin into four quarters, with a rose and a thistle occupying two of the quarters and a portcullis in each of the other two quarters. The whole design is overlaid with a linking jigsaw motif and surrounded by the dates "1707" and "2007", and the denomination "TWO POUNDS"||UNITED INTO ONE KINGDOM||Yvonne Holton|
|2007||Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire||The date "1807" with the "0" depicted as a broken chain link, surrounded by the inscription "AN ACT FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE" and the date "2007"||AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER||David Gentleman|
|2008||Olympic Handover Ceremony||A flag showing the five Olympic rings being passed from a hand on the left to a hand on the right. The surrounding inscription reads "BEIJING 2008" left of image and "LONDON 2012" to right. The London 2012 olympic logo is at the bottom of the coin overlapping both metals||I CALL UPON THE YOUTH OF THE WORLD||The Royal Mint Engraving Team|
|2008||The Centenary of the London Olympic Games of 1908||Four lanes of a running track extend from bottom left and converge into distance towards top right. The lane numbers show "1908" across the lanes with "TWO POUNDS 2008" written along the lanes. The inscription "LONDON OLYMPIC CENTENARY" is shown around the upper right half of the coin||THE 4TH OLYMPIAD LONDON||Thomas T Docherty|
|2009||250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns||A handwriting style of font reads [sic] "we'll tak a cup a' kindness yet, for auld lang syne". The inscription "1759 ROBERT BURNS 1796" above, "TWO POUNDS" below||SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT||The Royal Mint Engraving Team|
|2009||200th Anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth||A profile portrait of Charles Darwin on left, facing right, stares into the face of a chimpanzee on right, facing left. The inscription "1809 . DARWIN . 2009" above, "TWO POUNDS" below||ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES 1859||Suzie Zamit|
|2010||100th Anniversary of the death of Florence Nightingale||The design portrays a pulse being taken, whilst the background symbolises the rays of light from the lamp that Florence Nightingale was known for carrying during her rounds to tend to the wounded troops in the Crimean War. Surrounded by the inscription "1820 – FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE – 1910" with "TWO POUNDS" below||150 YEARS OF NURSING||Gordon Summers|
|2011||400th Anniversary of the King James Bible||The design features typeset in a replica of the black letter typeface used in the first edition: the reversed, raised text of the printing block on the left and the recessed text of the printed word on the right, taking the form of the quote, ‘In the beginning was the Word’ (John 1:1).’ Inscription "KING JAMES BIBLE" above, "1611–2011" below||THE AUTHORISED VERSION||Paul Stafford & Benjamin Wright|
|2011||500th Anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Mary Rose||The Mary Rose sailing right, based upon a 1546 pictorial survey of Henry VIII's navy. Inscription "THE MARY ROSE" above, "TWO POUNDS" below||YOUR NOBLEST SHIPPE 1511||John Bergdahl|
|2012||200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens||A profile outline of Charles Dickens, facing left, created from the titles of Dickens’ famous works. Inscription "1812 CHARLES DICKENS 1870" to left||SOMETHING WILL TURN UP||Matthew Dent|
|2012||The London 2012 Handover to Rio||The design depicts the moment of a baton handover in a relay race. The hand holding the baton descends from top right, above a sweeping UK flag which twists to become the flag of Brazil below the hand reaching up from bottom left to take the baton. Inscription "LONDON 2012" top left, "RIO 2016" bottom right. The London 2012 olympic logo is at the very top of the coin||I CALL UPON THE YOUTH OF THE WORLD||Jonathan Olliffe|
|2013||London Underground 150th Anniversary – The Train||The front of a tube train (1967 stock) fills the cupro-nickel centre of the coin as if approaching out of a tunnel formed by the surrounding nickel-brass outer ring of the coin. Inscription "1863 · LONDON UNDERGROUND · 2013" above||Linear representation of the Tube map||Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby|
|2013||London Underground 150th Anniversary – The Roundel||A representation of the London Underground logo with "1863" above and "2013" below||MIND THE GAP||Edwina Ellis|
|2013||The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea||A recreation of the design on what became known as the "spade guinea": a shield with the arms of King George III. Surrounding inscription "ANNIVERSARY OF THE GOLDEN GUINEA 2013"||WHAT IS A GUINEA? ‘TIS A SPLENDID THING (Stephen Kemble quotation)||Anthony Smith ARBS|
|2014||100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the First World War||A representation of the famous recruitment poster featuring Lord Kitchener with the legend "YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU". Surrounding inscription "THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914–1918" with "2014" below||THE LAMPS ARE GOING OUT ALL OVER EUROPE||John Bergdahl|
|2014||500th Anniversary of Trinity House||The beacon of a lighthouse shining out to left and right. Surrounding inscription "1514 TRINITY HOUSE 2014" with "TWO POUNDS" below.||SERVING THE MARINER||Joe Whitlock-Blundell and David Eccles|
|2015||800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta||King John is signing the Charter witnessed by a bishop and baron. Surrounding inscription "MAGNA CARTA" with "1215 - 2015" below||FOUNDATION OF LIBERTY||John Bergdahl|
|2015||The Royal Navy||Iron Duke-class battleship in profile with a lone seaplane on the starboard side and sea birds on the port side. Surrounding inscription "THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914 - 1918" with "2015" below||THE SURE SHIELD OF BRITAIN||David Rowlands|
|2016||William Shakespeare||Comedy - Jesters hat and stick. Surrounding inscription "WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE" with "2016" below||All the Worlds a Stage||John Bergdahl|
|2016||William Shakespeare||History - crown with a dagger through the middle of the crown. Surrounding inscription "WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE" with "2016" below||The Hollow Crown||John Bergdahl|
|2016||William Shakespeare||Tragedy - skull with a rose. Surrounding inscription "WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE" with "2016" below||What a piece of work is a man||John Bergdahl|
|2016||The Army||Surrounding inscription "THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914-1918" with "2016" below||FOR KING AND COUNTRY||John Bergdahl|
|2016||The Great Fire of London||Surrounding inscription "1666 THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON 2016" with "TWO POUNDS" below||THE WHOLE CITY IN DREADFUL FLAMES||Aaron West|
|2017||Jane Austen||Silhouette of Jane Austen's head, overlaid by her signature.||THERE IS NO DOING WITHOUT MONEY||Dominique Evans|
|2017||First World War Aviation||Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8, carrying a pilot and his observer, taking reconnaissance photography over the Battle of Arras.||THE SKY RAINED HEROES||Dan Flashman|
|2018||100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force||PER ARDUA AD ASTRA||Rhys Morgan|
|2018||The 100th Anniversary of the First World War Armistice||WILFRED OWEN KILLED IN ACTION 4 NOV 1918||Stephen Raw|
|2018||The 200th Anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein||A SPARK OF BEING||Thomas Docherty|
|Bi-metallic coin – total|
|Bi-metallic coin – commemoratives issued into circulation|