New coins unveiled with winning design

The winning entry in a public competition to design the first new British coin series for nearly 40 years was unveiled today.

Matthew Dent, 26, from Bangor, North Wales, will have his work stamped on billions of coins for decades to come.

His designs, which feature parts of the royal coat of arms, have been picked to feature on the "reverse" of the 1p through to the £1.

They will partner the familiar Queen's head image on the other side.

Mr Dent won the nationwide competition to come up with the new feature aimed at "renewing and reinvigorating" the UK's coinage.

The new coins are being minted and will come into circulation this summer, replacing the old coins with familiar designs such as the one penny piece's portcullis and chains.

It is the first wholesale change to the country's coinage since decimalisation was first introduced in April 1968.

Mr Dent said: "For designs of mine to appear on a medium as significant and prestigious as the United Kingdom's coinage and to be produced and circulated in millions is a tremendous honour."

The six designs on the 1p through to the 50p coins can be pieced together to form a complete image of the royal shield of arms.

The £1 coin features the complete shield.

This was the first coin design competition Mr Dent had entered.

He said: "I felt it was important to have a theme running through from one to another.

"I can imagine people playing with them, having them on a tabletop and enjoying them."

After he submitted his ideas to the Royal Mint in 2005, competition judges asked for them to be further developed.

Mr Dent said they then took "many, many months of refinement".

Mr Dent, who lives in London, received about £35,000 for his designs. He described the prize as "a reasonable sum". He will not be paid any further royalties.

There are currently more than 27 billion UK coins in circulation, with more than one billion minted each year.

The old coins will remain legal tender alongside the new versions.

Andrew Stafford, chief executive of the Royal Mint, said the new designs represented a very important day in history for British coinage.

Praising Mr Dent's designs as "stunning and inspiring", he said: "It's the only work of art that every member of the general public touches every day, that is important to the nation's way of life."

Mr Stafford added: "We had to make sure that the coin design was true to the heritage of British coins and gave fresh inspiration and modernity to something that has been in existence for 40 years."

Sir Christopher Frayling, who chairs the Royal Mint's advisory committee on coin design, added: "Every designer's dream is to make an impact on people's lives and Matthew Dent has achieved this at a very early stage of his career.

"These designs are certain to become classics in the history of coinage and I predict that they will have a very long shelf life."