John Lennon coin issued by UK Royal Mint

LONDON (AP) — Most British coins bear the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II — but now she’s been joined by John Lennon, honored Friday with a commemorative coin struck by the Royal Mint.

It was a triumph for Beatle fans, who used e-mail voting and social networks to buttress support for Lennon in a public poll to determine whose face should be on the special coin.

Lennon —whose songwriting credits include “Imagine” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” — came out far ahead of author Jane Austen and several other figures in the balloting.

“It’s entirely fitting that John Lennon has been chosen by the public in what would have been his 70th year,” said Dave Knight, director of Commemorative Coin at the Royal Mint. “The massive proportion of the vote he received shows clearly just how much his untimely death still resonates with the nation. He ranks alongside, and even ahead of, some of the greatest names in history.”

The former Beatle will join William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale among British luminaries whose images have graced special coins.

The issuing of the silver commemorative coin marks one more step in the British establishment’s posthumous embrace of Lennon, whose political stance and open drug use brought him into conflict with authorities in the late 1960s before he moved to New York, where he was murdered in 1980.

The airport at Lennon’s home town of Liverpool has been named after Lennon, and there is a statue of him in the city center.

The limited edition coin shows Lennon with long hair and sideburns and his trademark round glasses. It will have a face value of 5 pounds ($8) but will be sold for 44.99 pounds. Only 5,000 will be offered for sale.

The Royal Mint also plans to produce a single coin in 24 karat gold that will be given to Lennon’s estate.

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