Reading this piece about Australia's introduction of decimal currency, it struck me that despite having lived through the process 1 I didn't know anything about who had designed Britain's decimal coins. Thankfully there's a web site about the UK's transition, complete with an account of the (very British) process as seen by Jean Ironside, widow of Christopher Ironside who designed the UK's first set of decimal coinage:

In the end, after months of to-ing and fro-ing, Christopher finally managed to attend a Royal Mint Advisory Committee meeting. I believe this had not been done before as it was feared designers would become tongue-tied in the face of an eminent gathering which included Sir Kenneth Clark, Sir Anthony Wagner and John Betjeman and which was chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Philip. Possibly by now the Mint realised that Christopher's tongue was seldom tied.

He found the meetings he had with the Committee very helpful. He could pull out a pad of paper and demonstrate what happened to some of their suggestions. Thus time was saved. One recurring problem was Garter King of Arms who had to be satisfied with the accuracy of the heraldry. Christopher used to call on him for clearance from time to time which led to the saying in our house, 'If only Garter could be more elastic'. Year in, year out, the secrecy prevailed. Christopher supposed he was now designing the coins but he did not know. At one point, when answering the telephone to Alan Dowling, I said in desperation, 'Has Christopher won or not?'.

He paused for a moment. 'You have grounds for great optimism but don't run up a flag. Nothing is certain until the coins are finished and have received Royal Assent'. This exchange sealed our affectionate later enjoyment of Sir Humphrey in the programme Yes Minister.

  1. As it happened, the UK's transition took effect on my 8th birthday. I remember getting a presentational pack of our first decimal coinage as a birthday present.