Q Is for Queuing: Minting British Traditions With New 10-Pence Coins

LONDON — What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Britain?

Tea? An English breakfast? The Loch Ness Monster? A new release of 10 pence coins (roughly 15 cents) has as many answers as letters in the alphabet.

From “Angel of the North” to “Zebra Crossing,” the new coins rolling out this month are a collection of memorable and mundane facts of British life. Some, like B is for “Bond … James Bond” (L is for Loch Ness Monster), may resonate more with people outside the British Isles, while I for ice cream cone may seem more obscure.

“This series really drills down into the heartland of what makes Britain British,” said Dr. Kevin Clancy, director of the Royal Mint Museum, in a statement. “It’s the granularity of British life celebrated on the coinage.”

A public survey was conducted to establish what everyday icons Britons thought represented British lore and life most faithfully. Here are some of their picks.

The double-decker bus and zebra crossing, traditions of everyday life, were both popular with the public, the latter for being “the most British of transport symbols.” (A former British parliamentarian is generally credited with coming up with the name of the road marking for pedestrian crossings.)

One coin honors Britain’s National Health Service, which provides free access to health care for all and turns 70 this year. The N.H.S. has been facing a crisis for years, and it is acutely visible in the winter months, but the institution remains a point of national pride for many.

“It is a well-respected national institution, and most Britons will come into contact with it at some time in their lives, so it was a natural choice to represent the ‘N,’ ” Anne Jessop, chief executive of the Royal Mint, said in a statement.

Or, rather, tea, which “despite our growing love of coffee, was voted the drink most associated with Britain (86 percent), beating coffee (2 percent) and gin and tonic (2 percent) by a huge margin,” according to the Royal Mint.

The round silver coins lend their shape to the celebration of other culinary traditions like fish and chips and a plate of English breakfast. Others coins have, perhaps, more flaky themes like the soft-serve ice cream with a Cadbury Flake bar inserted in the cone.

The former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who studied chemistry at Oxford, is said to have had a role in the invention of the white whirly ice cream cones. But this story, like the British origin of the popular ice cream, has its skeptics.

Stonehenge beat the White Cliffs of Dover and London’s skyline as the “most famous southern landmark” in the Royal Mint survey.

A is for the “Angel of the North,” a giant male figure with wings spread wide, located near the city of Newcastle, pays tribute to the recovery of a region after the miner’s strikes of the 1980s.

In this series, however, Q is not for “Queen,” but for “queuing,” also known as waiting in line, which is almost an art form in Britain.

Still, as head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, is on the flip side of all the coins.

Content originally published on https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/world/europe/uk-10p-royal-mint.html by PALKO KARASZ