Collectibles Why the Queen's Head Faces Different Ways

Published on January 17th, 2020 | by Sam Rose

Why the Queen’s Head Faces Different Ways on Coins and Stamps

Pay close attention the next time you look at a coin or stamp and you may just notice that the Queen’s head faces different ways! Here’s why.

It’s not something that becomes easy to spot until you perhaps compare them side by side, but the UK’s coins and stamps have quite an unusual difference – the Queen’s head faces different ways!

This strange anomaly means that Queen Elizabeth II’s iconic profile is facing to the left when taking a look at Postage Stamps, yet is facing right when depicted on Coins.

It may seem strange for why the Queen’s head faces different ways on coins and stamps – in fact some may probably assume there’s no real reason for this other than to make these items distinguishable.

But delve a bit deeper, and it turns out there’s actually a secret tradition that explains why this difference is apparent.

The Secret Tradition on Why the Queen’s Head Faces Different Ways on Coins and Stamps

So what is this secret tradition as to why the Queen’s head faces different ways on coins and stamps?

Well according to John Richardson from the Department of Human Sciences at Brunel University, this difference is not exclusive to the Queen herself but something tied to any of the monarchs in charge of the country as either King or Queen.

In fact, the tradition dates back hundreds of years, originating at the time of Charles II’s rule.

It was established in the early 1600s, that the direction of the Monarch would alternate on coins during each rule.

To apply this to the present day, this secret tradition being in place will mean that the Queen’s next successor will be face to the left on coins and will look onwards to their right on stamps.

An Exception to the Rule for Coins

So far in history, there has only been one case of an exception to this rule in regard to Coins.

This was when Edward VIII was lined up to become the next ruler of the country in 1936.

However, as he abdicated before he could officially be crowned as King, no new coins that featured his profile were put into general circulation, meaning that experimental coinage had to be produced.

Some of these customized coins featured Edward VIII facing to the left – the very same direction of his predecessor, George V.

There are some theories to suggest that the reason for this was due to an act of rebellion by the abdicated king, as Richardson suggests:

“It’s not clear whether this was an expression of rebellion against convention, or vanity, to show what he regarded as his better profile, containing his hair parting.”

Explaining that the tradition was upheld following Edward VIII being succeeded by George VI, he adds:

“It was nevertheless determined that designs for the coinage of George VI, his successor, should be prepared as if that of Edward VIII had been produced and as if it has depicted him facing right, thus reinstating the original tradition.”

An Exception to the Rule for Stamps

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It’s important to point out however, that there is also an exception to the rule when it comes to stamps.

Special Stamps and Commemorative Stamps don’t always follow the tradition of the Queen’s head facing to the left.

Since 1973, many have depicted the Queen as facing right, whilst some to commemorate Royal Weddings have not shown her head at all.

It’s also completely random for some Special Stamps issues, as the direction in which the Queen faces varies depending on the design.

First Class and Second Class Postage Stamps however, tend to follow this traditional rule.

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