1963 seems like a lifetime away now!

On the 12th February, Goldberg Auctioneers held their Pre-Long Beach coin sale. Among the many fine and high quality lots being offered was lot 3241 a Great Britain. Uniface Silver Pattern 20 Pence or Double Florin from 1963, with an Obverse portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (without legend) by Machin.

The catalogues full description read:

Great Britain. Uniface Silver Pattern 20 Pence or Double Florin. Elizabeth II. Struck at the Royal Mint in 1963 to the same dimensions (36mm diameter) as the Victorian Four Shilling coin. Obverse portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (without legend) by Machin. Reverse is intentionally blank. This is an extremely rare coin (probably only 2-3 pieces known) which formed a part of the Mint’s numismatic experiments, before the dawn of decimalisation. Eventually a small multi-sided and quite different 20 pence coin was introduced in 1982, but some 19 years earlier the Royal Mint had obviously contemplated the provision of a 36mm diameter decimal 20 pence which would take the place of the (larger) 25 pence Crown coin. NGC graded MS-62. WINGS. Estimate Value $1,500 – 1,700

Unfortunately on this occasion it remained unsold. This got me reflecting on the year 1963 and on some events that took place in that year and leading up to full currency decimalisation. The most tragic of events was of course the assassination of President Kennedy (JFK) and I swear to this day as a 3 year old my very first memories were of the immense shock and mood of sadness that my family and friends felt; not dissimilar to the sudden death of  Princess Dianna some years later and the mood that swept the nation at that time.

1965 saw the passing of Sir Winston Churchill our great war leader and his state funeral which was shown live on television. A new Crown was released to commemorate him and his life and on my birthday that year, guess what I was given? that’s right I got a Churchill crown.

It pays to remember that a crown was a quarter of a pound or 5 shillings, 25p in today’s money, but to put it into perspective, my father was earning £4 a week at that time working for the Hemel Hempstead Gazette.

It was then in 1966 that England hosted an went on to win the World Football Cup at the old Wembley stadium, again I remember sitting on a maroon feu leather pouffe and being told to be quite as my male relatives watched the match on their ‘impressive’ 20″ state of the art Black and White PYE TV.

So around comes 1968 and the release of the ‘Britain’s First Decimal Coins’ blue wallet and here for the first time in general release was that self same Machin portrait of the queen on the afore mentioned 1963 Royal Mint test piece.

Again my sister and I both had one of these given to for Christmas. It was a little confusing as I had spent all eight years of my short life learning LSD (Pounds Shillings and Pence) and how to tie up my shoe laces! and now I needed to get to grips with Decimal. Fortunately we had a little time to get used to it as the country was not to go fully decimal until 1971.

It all seems like a lifetime away and indeed it was! What next I wonder for our great hobby of Coin collecting.