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Reverse side of a coin

The reverse side of a coin is the ‘back’ side, and would commonly be referred to as the ‘tails’ side of the coin.

The reverse side of the coin usually features a symbol, artistic design and the denomination or face value. The obverse usually has the portrait or image of a monarch or leader. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom for example, features on the obverse of the coin for many mints around the world; this includes countries such as Canada and Australia, as well as the UK. The reverse side however celebrates iconic symbology, landmarks, heraldry, mythology and people. The reverse side of a coin is limited by nothing more than the imagination of the artist commissioned to design it.

The design of the reverse sides of several popular coins.
A selection of some of the most iconic coin reverse designs in the world.

Top left – the 2019 Britannia: The Britannia was introduced in 1987, and has been produced annually every year since. The obverse features the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, and the reverse side of the Britannia coin has a mixture of designs. Learn more about the various reverse designs of the Britannia coin.

Top middle – the 2019 Krugerrand: The Krugerrand was the first one ounce gold investment coin. The obverse features the portrait of Paul Kruger – the first President of the South African Republic – and the reverse has the image of a Springbok. The reverse design has remained essentially the same in all issues of the Krugerrand, with only the year changing. Learn more about the Krugerrand.

Top right – the 2019 Canadian Maple: The Canadian Maple gold coin continues the tradition of featuring Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse of the coin. The reverse side of the coin uses a design of Canada’s national symbol – the maple leaf. The design has remained largely unchanged, though newer coins have a smaller maple leaf located below the larger one, which was added as a anti-counterfeiting and security feature.

Bottom left – the 2019 Sovereign: Perhaps the most iconic reverse design of any coin, the British Sovereign has used the same design since being reintroduced in 1817. The obverse features the traditional portrait of the monarch. The reverse uses the classic image of St. George & Dragon designed by Italian sculptor Benedetto Pistrucci. This design has been used in almost every release ever since, making the reverse of the Sovereign one of the most recognisable around the world. Learn more about the design of the Sovereign.

Bottom right – the 2020 White Lion of Mortimer: The Queen’s Beasts coins were introduced in 2016, and have had several issues in the series each year since, with the collection set to conclude in 2020. The reverse side of the Queen’s Beasts coins are unique designs of the 10 heraldic beasts featured on the crests of various members of the British royal family. These coins are beautifully designed, and are both collectable, and perfect for investment. Learn more about the Queen’s Beasts coins.


Sides of a coin

The orientation of coins can be arranged in two different ways; ‘medallion orientation’ and ‘coin orientation’ as demonstrated below.

The orientation for the sides of a coin. .

Although heads and tails are most commonly used for describing the sides of a coin, this is not always accurate or easy to identify. The obverse (heads) may not always feature a portrait, as seen in the American Eagle coins for example. There may also be two heads on both sides of the coin, such as in the 1904 Lewis and Clark gold dollar. Obverse and reverse then offer a more accurate way to describe the sides of a coin.