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Fans of H.G. Wells cry foul over errors in commemorative coin
The coin has irked some fans of Wells who quickly spotted what they described as flaws and botched imagery in the coin’s design, which was inspired by the author’s books. The Royal Mint via The New York Times.

by Johnny Diaz

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- The idea was to create a commemorative coin to celebrate the work of H.G. Wells, the British writer, historian and sociologist best known for the novels “The War of the Worlds” and “The Invisible Man.”

But the 2-pound coin that the Royal Mint in Britain unveiled this week has irked some fans of Wells who quickly spotted what they described as flaws and botched imagery in the coin’s design, which was inspired by the author’s books.

For instance, the Martian machine that Wells described in “The War of the Worlds” as “a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses,” appears to have four legs instead of three. And the image of the invisible man on the coin has the character wearing a top hat and not the “wide-brimmed hat” that Wells described in his book.

The errors, and the response from Wells aficionados, were reported by The Guardian.

“Can I just note that the big walking machine on the coin has four legs? Four legs,” Holly Humphries, a digital artist, said on Twitter.

Humphries, of Oxfordshire, England, said she noticed the mistake Monday, the day the coin was announced by the Royal Mint, when she read about it in an online forum devoted to “The War of the Worlds.”

“The tripod is an iconic, famous thing in fiction for over 120 years now,” she said in an interview Tuesday, “and to make that mistake shows an incredible lack of familiarity with the work, especially when you’re trying to honor the writer with such a coin.”

Patrick Parrinder, president of the H.G. Wells Society in London and an author who has written about Wells, also spotted the mistake.

“Three legs good, four legs bad,” Parrinder said of the tripod. “It’s a shame that the artist didn’t pick that out.”

Adam Roberts, a vice president of the Wells Society and a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, said on Twitter, “Not only did Wells’ Tripods have *three* legs, Griffin, his invisible man, does not wear a top hat.” The character’s face, he added, was bandaged under a “wide-brimmed hat.”

“So it’s two for two,” he said.

Wells, who was considered an outstanding literary figure of his time, is best known for his science fiction novels, some of which have been adapted into movies. He died in 1946 at the age of 79.

In announcing the coin, The Royal Mint said it was “celebrating the imagination and enquiring mind of a man who helped shaped the world we live in.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Mint said in a statement Wednesday that it “works with leading designers around the world to create art on the unique canvas of a coin.”

“We encourage them to be creative and distinct in their response to the brief,” she said. “When developing a design for the H.G. Wells coin, we asked artists to consider his life and his work, ensuring the coin would be instantly recognizable and make best use of the space" on a 2-pound coin.

The coin was designed by Chris Costello, a Boston-based graphic designer and illustrator. It depicts the four-legged alien machine with the invisible man in the foreground. The coin’s visuals also include a partial Roman numeral clock, a nod to “The Time Machine,” Costello said on his website.

“The characters in War of the Worlds have been depicted many times, and I wanted to create something original and contemporary,” Costello said in a statement that was released by the Royal Mint. “My design takes inspiration from a variety of machines featured in the book — including tripods and the handling machines which have five jointed legs and multiple appendages.”

He added that “the final design combines multiple stories into one stylized and unified composition that is emblematic” of Wells’ work “and fits the unique canvas of a coin.”

On his website, Costello also said that he used a top hat because it “was easily recognized as Victorian-era in contrast to the futuristic machine in the background.”

The coin, which has an image of Queen Elizabeth II in profile on the other side, will be issued later this year, 75 years after Wells’ death, the Royal Mint said Tuesday. It is part of the Royal Mint’s annual set, a collection of coins noting anniversaries in 2021, including the queen’s 95th birthday.

2021 The New York Times Company

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