I call this a Bargain! The best I’ve ever had! It ain’t no Eminence Front, it ain’t no put-on and if you See Me, Feel Me, you know that isn’t a case of the The Who Sold Out. You could say this is A Quick One for My Generation, but we all know that The Kids Are Alright. Though you could say that it’s Much To Much, I think it’s the best Substitute for a numismatist and music fan to enjoy this band that 2021 has to offer.
So hop on the Magic Bus and though It’s Hard, please Join Together to celebrate the Royal Mint release of a great series of coins honoring The Who. Don’t worry, you Won’t Get Fooled Again, because no matter who you are or Who Are You, I’m guessing you were once The Seeker of this classic British rock sound.
Though I’m Free to, I Can’t Explain how nice this next design in the Royal Mint’s ongoing Music Legends series looks. So I’ll just have to show you.
Whew! Now that I’ve got that out of my system, we can get on to the business of telling you about the fourth coin design in the Music Legends series produced by the Royal Mint. It honors iconic rock band The Who that was formed in 1964 and which blasted onto the British rock scene in 1965 with their first single “I Can’t Explain”, followed shortly by the classic album My Generation, a stunning appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, first concept rock album Tommy in 1969 and appearances at both Woodstock and Isle of Wight music festivals in 1970.
A true sensation The Who loved to shake things up. You could spend hours on YouTube viewing clips of their crazy antics and great performances. Royal Mint artist Henry Gray was tasked with distilling these huge personalities and accomplishments into a numismatic capsule of The Who.
“The design had to capture the bands musical flair and reflect the band’s image. The subject had to be instantly recognisable as The Who without actually showing the band,” said Gray.
After doing his research and listening to the music Gray embarked on an exploration of ideas. “There wasn’t a ‘eureka’ moment. After a lot of research, I identified a number of unique elements of The Who – the main one being ‘Pinball Wizard’, another being their habit of smashing up their equipment on stage (an act of auto-destructive performance art according to Pete Townshend). I began to test out ways of communicating these key concepts.”
Take a look at the Royal Mint website page for The Who coins to view some of Gray’s wonderful early sketched concepts. The final versions used to produce these coins in copper-nickel, silver and gold accomplish exactly what Gray set out to do.
Gray described the aspects of his design in this way. “Every graphic element communicates a different trait of The Who, including the band’s most frequently used icons: the Union flag, Mod logo and one of the band’s best-known songs.”
“The design shows a stylised Rickenbacker guitar as a pinball table that is being smashed through a speaker stack. The guitar had to be a Rickenbacker because it was the first guitar Pete Townshend destroyed on stage. The way the guitar smashes through the speaker stack is reminiscent of the way he was captured in photographs stabbing at and smashing up his equipment.”
“The Union flag has always been used by the band in promotional material but more than that, they used to use it as a set dressing, as a costume, and even as a speaker stack covering. And it had to be about ‘Pinball Wizard’ because I think that, although it’s not necessarily their most famous song, it is one of the most recognisable for fans and more general music lovers alike.”
There are several different sizes, denominations and metals to choose from in The Who series. The most accessible, both in mintage and price, are the Brilliant Uncirculated copper-nickel strike in plain and color versions. Each has different card packaging featuring images of The Who in the early days.
Silver strikes are offered in four proof versions. The half ounce, with special limited Lucite holder with Union Jack graphics but no color on the coin itself is quite a nice display piece and a bargain at about $90. A one ounce silver proof is available in standard black case and with color on the coin. This version also hosts the PINBALL WIZARD edge lettering.
Also produced were two ounce and five ounce silver proofs, with mintage limits of 550 and 500 respectively. Each of these displays an added feature of reverberating sound waves emanating from The Who logo in the opening of the guitar stabbed speaker. The Royal Mint has appropriately named this feature the “Shockwave Effect”. As of this writing the five ounce proof remains available on the Royal Mint website at https://www.royalmint.com/our-coins/events/music-legends/the-who/ for about $735.
The Who gold coins come in Kilo, two ounce, one ounce and quarter ounce proof versions. The largest two coins also offer the special “Shockwave Effect” with rings of sound vibrations emanating from The Who logo in the opening of the busted speaker, just like on the two larger silver types. It’s a really nice effect, but of course these are the upper echelon coins with very small mintages and very high prices.
The Kilo gold version will be a very special rarity as time passes. Not only does it have the smallest mintage limit in the series, at only 12 pieces, it also hosts an exclusive bespoke, laser-printed, patterned edge. The graphics of this special edge feature were designed by Henry Gray using iconic symbols of The Who.
The smallest gold piece, the quarter ounce has a limited mintage of just 1,000 pieces. As of this writing they are in stock at the Royal Mint website for about $900. Given the mintage this is likely to be the best value in gold.
Denominations for the entire series are as follows; each copper-nickel strike is £5, half ounce silver is £1, one ounce silver is £2. Two ounce silver is £5, five ounce silver is £10, quarter ounce gold is £25, one ounce gold is £100, two ounce gold is £200, five ounce gold is £500 and the massive Kilo gold piece is £1,000. The silver strikes are .999 fine and the gold coins are .9999 fine, which is as close to pure as you can get.
A limited edition print of the color version of The Who coin is also available from the Royal Mint. It’s signed and numbered by the designer Henry Gray. This lovely print was produced in a quantity of just 200 and a price of about $132. As of this writing, the limited edition print is still available, but it may not be for long.