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Aussies honour their monarchs

(The following copyrighted item by Robert Aaron first appeared in The Toronto Star, and is reprinted here with permission of the author.)

The portraits used on each of the coins is the actual portrait used for the monarchs on their contemporary coins. All of the coins are literally two-headed. Each has the portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the obverse and the portrait of a predecessor on the obverse side.

The new $2 coin, for example, shows the traditional numismatic portrait of the mature Queen Victoria, the great-great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth.

The final coin of the series, in a 20-cent denomination, shows Queen Elizabeth on both sides. The familiar Commonwealth portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley is on one side, and the Queen's 1953 portrait by Mary Gillick appears on the other side. Gillick's portrait was used for a dozen years on most Commonwealth coins, including those of Canada.

In between the Victoria and the Elizabeth coins, are those of her father, George VI, her grandfather George V, and her great-grandfather Edward VII. (Only her uncle, Edward VIII, is omitted from the series since no Australian coins were issued with his portrait.) Each king reigned in a period of turbulence and change. The George VI coin is a 50-cent denomination, while the Edward VII and George V coins are 20-cent pieces.

Tracing the five reigns of the last century, each coin of this new set is struck in pure (99.9 per cent) silver. Packaged in an attractive case, they are priced at $139 Australian dollars for the set.

Write Royal Australian Mint, Private Bag 31 Kingston, ACT 2604, Australia, or visit GOTOBUTTON BM_1_ Also new from "down under" is a year 2000 proof set which includes a full colour Australian flag on its 50-cent piece, and a commemorative 50-cent piece to mark the Queen's Royal Visit to that country earlier this year.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, which took place between July and November, 1940. Germany was planning to invade Great Britain after the fall of France and the retreat from Dunkirk.

In the first phase of the battle, Germany needed to eliminate the Royal Air Force so it could establish air supremacy and allow its troops to cross the Channel and land on British soil. After the Luftwaffe attacked British convoys, British and German fighter planes would duel one-on-one in the skies over the Channel and the mainland. Huge air raids were mounted against all British air fields and industrial centres, while London sustained heavy casualties and damage in nightly bombing runs from Berlin.

Even Buckingham Palace was not spared bomb damage, while the King and Queen refused to flee the country to safety elsewhere. Despite a critical shortage of fighter pilots, Britain ultimately triumphed because it had the first modern air defence network based on a new technology - radar. This year, both the Isle of Man and Gibraltar have both issued commemorative coins in base metals, silver and gold to pay tribute to a time that changed the course of the war and of the history of the century.

Gibraltar's coin features the famous Spitfire flying over St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and the Manx coin shows two Spitfires in a dogfight with a German Messerschmitt. Contact the Pobjoy Mint at (651) 322-2264, or visit

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