There are few people as iconic as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The great engineer was responsible for some of the most impressive feats of Victorian engineering, including the Thames Tunnel, the Clifton Suspension Bridge and, of course, the Great Western Railway. He was a true pioneer, and his legacy continues to inspire people all over the world.
Brunel's life was celebrated with two special £2 coins issued by the Royal Mint in 2006. This coin, which was designed by Rod Kelly, features a portrait of Brunel in profile, with some of his most famous achievements listed around the edge. It's a fitting tribute to a man who changed the world, but how much is it worth today?
Average prices on online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon give this coin a value of £3.20 excluding postage and packaging in good circulated condition. It's an unusual coin, but not as rare as you may think.
History behind the coin
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in Portsmouth on April 9, 1806. He was a living industrialist who passed away on September 15, 1859, from a stroke.
French engineer Mark, his father, fled France after the revolution. When Brunel got back to England, he started working as an engineer for his father.
Between Hanwell and Ealing is the eight-arched Wharncliffe Viaduct, a brick-built railroad overpass.
The Maidenhead Railway Bridge was the widest and flattest brick arch bridge in the world when it was constructed in 1838.
Bristol Temple Meads Station was the largest single-span construction ever constructed when it was opened.
Box Tunnel: When it was built, this 2,937-meter-long tunnel on the Great Western Railway line between Bath and Chippenham was the largest railway tunnel in the entire globe.
All of these were designed by this great man.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a British civil engineer who is regarded as 'one of the most inventive and prolific figures in engineering history', 'one of the 19th-century engineering giants,' and 'one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution, changed the face of the English landscape with his ground-breaking designs and ingenious constructions,' is commemorated on this circulating commemorative £2 coin on the 200th anniversary of his birth.
In addition to numerous significant bridges and tunnels, Brunel also constructed dockyards, the Great Western Railway, a number of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship. His creations revolutionized both modern engineering and public transportation.
Design of the coin
This reverse design commemorates the 200th anniversary of Brunel's birth in 1806.
The Rod Kelly-sculpted portrait of Brunel against a section of the Royal Albert bridge (a railway bridge which spans the River Tamar in England) and a wheel reminiscent of the many machines he built.
He is wearing a top hat with a trademark cigar in his mouth. The design which appears on the reverse (tails) of the £2 Brunel coin, is sometimes known as 'Brunel the man.'
This is encircled by symbolic chain links, with the value and denomination 'TWO POUNDS' on what looks like a riveted metal plate above. The date 2006 can be seen on a similar plate below.
The coin has the inscription incused on the milled edge - 1806-1859 ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL ENGINEER.
There is another £2 coin Brunel Achievements featuring Paddington Station's roof is seen on the reverse of the coin, which features a depiction of Brunel's accomplishments and was created by Robert Evans. There are 'so many irons in the fire,' it says on the edge.
Both of the £2 Brunel coins feature Her Majesty The Queen on their reverses, just like other £2 coins created by Ian Rank-Broadley.
The image of Queen Elizabeth II facing right may be found on the coin's obverse. After the coin went decimal, this particular portrait was on the two pound coin from 1998 until 2015.
The "Girls of Great Britain and Ireland" diamond tiara is worn on her head. Her Majesty's grandmother, Queen Mary, gave the tiara as a wedding present in 1947.
Just beneath her, one can see the letters IRB. They stand for Ian Rank-initials, Broadley's who designed the obverse. The iconic lines ELIZABETH II DEI GRA REG FID DEF, which are translated from Latin to mean Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith, are written all around the outer circle.
Mintage of the Coin
The Royal Mint's official mintage of this £2 commemorative coin is just under 8 million at 7,928,250. This is a comparatively high mintage and is similar to the 2012 Charles Dickens £2 coin which has a mintage of nearly 8.2 million.
Other versions of the coin were issued including brilliant uncirculated versions in presentation folders, silver proof, silver piedfort and gold editions.
Scarcity of the coin
The Brunel Portrait £2 has a high mintage and it is very likely you have received one of these coins in your change, so it is not considered to be a rare coin. Of the two Brunel £2 coins, the Brunel Achievements £2 has a lower mintage at just under 7.5 million.
The same year also had a standard technology £2 coin, with a mintage of 16,715,000.
How much is the Brunel Portrait Two Pound coin worth?
The coin in common circulating condition is worth around £3.20 without shipping, so still more than face value and a coin to keep hold of as it is sure to increase in value.
Where can I buy the 2006 Brunel Portrait £2 Coin?
You can buy the circulated version of the Brunel portrait £2 coin online from ourselves by clicking here.
Alternatively, you can look on auction sites such as eBay or Amazon but please ensure you look at all the information and reputation of the seller.
Unfortunately, as this coin is now over 17 years old, the Royal Mint no longer stock this coin so it is only available to buy on the secondary market.
Are there any known errors of this coin?
There are no known errors of this coin so please be wary of sellers listing these coins at overstated prices, with 'errors'.
Note on the obverse (heads) side of the coin, there are small raised dots around the edge of the silver coloured section. We have been informed that on some of the 2006 £2 coins, these dots appear offset or away from the edge or totally missing. This is not an error and is very common on two pound coins prior to 2015.
Bit of trivia...
Brunel was only 5 feet tall. Despite his achievements, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was known for being visibly self-conscious about his height. He often tried to appear taller by sitting up straight when on horseback or wearing a very tall top hat as seen on the reverse design of the coin.
Brunel’s final and most ambitious project was SS Great Eastern. It was built to take passengers non-stop from London to Sydney.
As he tested SS Great Eastern’s engines before she set sail, Brunel had a stroke on the deck, probably as a result of a lifetime of heavy smoking. He returned to his home at 18 Duke Street where he died 10 days later, aged 53.