The Queen’s image will no longer be printed on British currency. What happens now?

Credit: Colin Watts/Unsplash.

Like most Londoners, Northeastern University—London history professor Chloë McKenzie carries Queen Elizabeth II with her almost everywhere she goes.

Facing right and wearing a gem-studded crown, the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch’s effigy was stamped on every coin and printed on every banknote in the Commonwealth following her rise to power in 1952.

But in response to her death last year, her presence will be erased—from stamps, ciphers on buildings, and the national anthem—in favor of her son, King Charles III.

The currency will follow suit: The Bank of England released the design for new banknotes featuring Charles III in December, with plans to circulate starting in 2024.

As for the Royal Mint, every coin it creates from January 2023 onward will bear Charles’ image, starting with 9.6 million 50-pence coins.

Tender featuring Elizabeth will be valid for the foreseeable future, and will circulate with the new currency.

Having two monarchs mingling in a coin purse may seem strange to those who have only known one queen in their lifetime.

But experts say this actually marks a “return to the norm” for the UK; what’s more, the shift could change the significance of British currency for years to come.

McKenzie has been collecting old coins since she was a child, and even has some that feature Queen Victoria, who ruled from 1837 to 1901. Featuring a king or queen on currency dates back to ancient Rome, McKenzie says.

In British history, according to the Royal Mint, striking the coins with the monarch’s effigy goes back to Alfred the Great, who first ruled as King of the West Saxons from 871 to 886.

At that time, McKenzie notes, featuring monarchs on the money served a clear purpose. “Back in the days before photographs, the coinage would be the main way that people would see the king or queen’s likeness,” she says.

Even with photographs and the internet, most people will never see the king in person, as Northeastern marketing professor Courtney Hagen-Ford notes.

“Most of us will never witness him opening Parliament or carrying out official duties,” she says. “This is the primary way that we will interact with his image.”

In that way, currency acts as a powerful symbol of the monarch’s presence in everyday life.

“Every transaction that you make, you’re holding the king or queen in your hand,” McKenzie says. “You can’t escape the crown.”

In the past, she says, multiple monarchs have usually been represented in the currency stream at once. This is why, McKenzie says, they have distinguished themselves by alternating between facing left and right since the 1660s.

“We didn’t have so many long-lived monarchs back in the day,” she says. “It would have been part of the normal shift of things” to see multiple monarchs at one time.

Early in Elizabeth’s reign, for example, it would have been common to see Edward VII, George V and George VI, all of whom make appearances in McKenzie’s collection.

“You would have had, in the course of 50 years, six monarchs,” she says. “There would have been a huge amount of diversity.”

But since Elizabeth II ruled for 70 years, most people in the Commonwealth have never seen another monarch represented on their money, though they have watched her age as new coins are minted and bills are printed. And with the current king age 74 and his son William, 40, there isn’t likely to be another long-running monarch for quite some time, making this the new normal.

Still, Elizabeth will maintain a presence on U.K. money for decades to come. The Royal Mint estimates that 27 billion coins with the queen are currently in circulation.

That also means the monetary value of Elizabeth coins isn’t going up anytime soon.

The coins that are high in value include Georgian coins, according to the experts at JB Antiques in Durham, England, along with any coins that were misprinted. Coins minted in 1933 are particularly rare, as so few were made at the time.

But coins featuring Elizabeth—even the earliest ones, where she’s still depicted as a young monarch—won’t have value for a long time, as there are so many in circulation.

The significance of the shift is also diminished by the relative disuse of money, as change and paper money has also seen a decline with the rise of credit cards and easy pay apps like Apple Pay.

“In the world before Apple Pay and contactless payments, I think this change would have meant more,” McKenzie says. “Our relationship with the crown has really changed possibly as a result.”

Hagen-Ford agrees. In addition to using post offices and cash a lot less, “We have far less deference to the monarchy as a source of authority than previous generations,” she says. As a result, “in spite of the monumental nature of the change, it will still be somewhat muted.”

“For me, it’s not particularly strange to see currency without the Queen,” says Dolly Carter, who lives in Ipswich. “I mostly use Apple Pay on my watch and think I only have loose coins in odd bags here and there.”

But the opposite may be true as well, as new Charles III coins make appearances and Elizabeth coins start to attain “relic” status.

Carter has seen others get excited about finding a King Charles coin, including people posting on the community Facebook page that they’ve found their first, or asking where they can get their hands on one. Amesbury Post Office, for their part, is limiting Charles coins to one per customer. “We’ve been getting asked for these for a while and they finally arrived,” wrote Daisy Chain & Prestwick Post Office on Facebook, with a photo of the new 50-pence coins.

McKenzie anticipates that some Britons will set aside Elizabethan coins along with these “first” Charles coins.

“It’s a piece of history,” McKenzie says. “In a way, it was a break with the norm to have such a long-lived queen, and we know that that’s not going to happen again for quite a while.”

Written by Jessica Taylor Price.