The UK's Royal Mint, the official maker of British coins, unveiled the first currency that will feature a profile of the recently installed King Charles III on Thursday.
“We are proud to unveil the first official coin portrait of King Charles III which has been designed by Martin Jennings FRSS and personally approved by His Majesty,” the organization wrote on Twitter.
Both a 50-pence coin and a 5-pound coin will be introduced into public circulation by December, according to the statement. On Oct. 3, the Royal Mint confirmed it will also be releasing a special collection of memorial coins to celebrate the life of Queen Elizabeth II, who died Sept. 8 at age 96.
Coins depicting the Queen will still be legal tender, and it’s expected to take years for them to fully exit out of usage — there are 27 billion coins currently circulating the UK featuring her image. In a statement, the Royal Mint said “these will be replaced over time as they become damaged or worn, and to meet demand for additional coins.”
The mint’s CEO Anne Jessopp described the unveiling of coins with King Charles as “the biggest change in British coinage for several decades.” Queen Elizabeth was the longest-serving monarch in British history; most people living in the UK have never used coins that didn’t have her face on them.
The Royal Mint has been making coins for more than 1,000 years, and they’ve always featured the face of the monarch. With the new portraits unveiled this week, some people joked that it was another outdated tradition, like the lineage of the Queen’s corgis and the royal beekeeper’s tradition of informing the bees of her death.
“Imagine waiting 70 years to get your face on a coin and then everyone’s gone contactless,” one tweeted.
A few of the other Commonwealth countries have said they will also be introducing King Charles III onto their coins. The Royal Australian Mint confirmed in September the new King will be on its coins next year, but Treasurer Jim Chalmers said they might not replace the Queen on its 5-dollar banknotes.
Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Mint confirmed in a statement that it will be issuing a variety of commemorative coins in Queen Elizabeth’s honor; however, they will be working “to determine a new obverse (heads) design for future Canadian coins.”
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand said in September that there would be plans to change out the coins and banknotes with King Charles III, but the transition would take several years in order to ensure cost-advantage printing and minting from manufacturers in the UK and Canada. “It will be several years before we need to introduce coins featuring King Charles III, and longer until stocks of $20 notes are exhausted,” the Reserve Bank spokesperson said.
The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, which oversees financial services for countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has not yet said if or when it will also introduce coins with King Charles III.
Other Commonwealth countries have already phased out the British monarch from their coins and banknotes. Jamaica, for example, features the island’s flora and fauna, even though the British monarch remains its official head of state.