The first decimal coins were circulated in 1968. These were the five pence (5p) and ten pence (10p), and had values of one shilling (1/-) and two shillings (2/-), respectively, under the pre-decimal £sd system.
The decimal coins are minted in copper-plated steel (previously bronze), nickel-plated steel, cupronickel and nickel-brass. The two-pound coins, and, as from 28 March 2017 the new one-pound coins, are bimetallic.
The coins are discs, except for the twenty pence and fifty pence pieces, both of which have faces that are heptagonal curves of constant width, and the new one-pound coins, which have twelve edges.
All the circulating coins have an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse, and various national and regional designs, and the denomination, on the reverse.
The circulating coins, excepting the two-pound coin, were redesigned in 2008, keeping the sizes and compositions unchanged, but introducing reverse designs that each depict a part of the Royal Shield of Arms and form (most of) the whole shield when they are placed together in the appropriate arrangement.
The exception, the 2008 one-pound coin, depicts the entire shield of arms on the reverse.
All current coins carry a Latin inscription whose full form is ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA FIDEI DEFENSATRIX, meaning “Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, Queen and Defender of the Faith”.