The death of Queen Elizabeth II will trigger a change you may not have considered.
At the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, her face graced the currencies of separate 33 countries — due to the British empire’s legacy of expansion and colonialism, no other individual was as common a sight on various bills and coins around the world.
In the United Kingdom alone, there are currently 29 billion coins and 4.7 million banknotes with the late Queen’s image in circulation. In the 70 years that she spent on the throne, five different portraits were sculpted specifically for appearance on coins.
With Great Britain now in the midst of organizing a state funeral and transitioning to the rule of King Charles III, changing currency is unlikely to take top spots on the hierarchy of priority.
King Charles III To Appear On Legal Tender
The process of reprinting bills and remaking coins with King Charles III will likely be a gradual one — as the Queen’s image only started appearing on British bills in 1960 (she ascended to the throne in 1952), no other monarch graced British money and there is no formal process for what is to be done when a sovereign is replaced.
Coins, meanwhile, have featured monarchs such as James VI as far back as the 1600s and have been gradually phased out both with new circulations and changing coinage systems.
The Royal Mint, which oversees production and distribution of UK coins, said that all “circulating coins bearing portraits of Queen Elizabeth II remain legal tender and in circulation.”
The Bank of England, which manages printing of Pound sterling banknotes, also did not say when it would start the long process of replacing the country’s currency but issued a statement saying that “current banknotes featuring the image of Her Majesty The Queen will continue to be legal tender.”
In all likelihood, it will be a slow and unnoticeable process in which new coins are introduced and older ones are phased out with time. Someone born in the UK in 2022 would likely reach adulthood by the time no coins or bills with the late Queen’s image are in circulation.
But the UK is far from the only country to face the massive task of updating its currency to reflect a new monarch. As a constitutional monarchy, Canada features Queen Elizabeth II on its $20 banknote.
“The current polymer $20 bank note is intended to circulate for years to come,” a Bank of Canada spokesperson told CNN Business. “There is no legislative requirement to change the design within a prescribed period when the Monarch changes.”
Cash’s Role In A Digital World
All former colonies, countries like Australia, New Zealand and even the Central American nation of Belize will all face similar logistical changes in the years and decades to come.
But while currency updates are inevitable, it is unlikely that King Charles III’s image will be as ubiquitous on the face of money as his mother’s.
Many former colonies have for years called for distancing from the Royal Family and the use of cash in general is dwindling as many financial transactions are digitized.
While 62% of all payments in the UK were made using cash in 2006, Yahoo Finance predictions expect that number to drop to 21% by 2026.
A study of British teenagers found that nearly half expect to never use cash to pay for restaurant meals by the time they reach adulthood.