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All modern British coins feature a profile of the current monarch's head on the obverse face. There has been only one monarch since decimalization, Queen Elizabeth II, so her head appears on all decimal coins. Three different effigies have been used, reflecting the Queen's changing appearance over time. These are the effigy by Arnold Machin until 1984, that by Raphael Maklouf between 1985 and 1997, and that by Ian Rank-Broadley since 1998.

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All current coins carry a Latin inscription whose full form is ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA FIDEI DEFENSOR, meaning "Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, Queen and Defender of the Faith". The inscription appears on the coins in any of several abbreviated forms, typically ELIZABETH II D G REG F D.

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