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Britain’s 50-pence coin turns 50

Fifty years ago, the Great British heptagonal cupro-nickel 50 pence arrived in pockets, purses, and wallets throughout the United Kingdom.

To celebrate the anniversary, Britain’s Royal Mint has announced the striking of a set of five commemorative coins. The five subjects are those that have proved most popular among collectors over the past five decades: Britannia, Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and Kew Gardens.

(Image courtesy & © The Royal Mint)

In 1969, Britannia was brought back by popular demand. She had reigned on British coins from 1672 until her last appearance on pre-decimal circulating coins in 1967. Public public outcry at her disappearance is why she appeared on the 50p one year after the other decimal coins were introduced in 1968.

Christopher Ironside chose to depict her seated with her lion at her side. There she remained for a further 40 years before being replaced by Matthew Dent’s design in 2008. And now she is back for the anniversary.

(Image courtesy & © The Royal Mint)

The first sub-four-minute mile was run by Roger Bannister on May 6, 1954. The time was three minutes and 59.4 seconds. A 50p was issued in 2004 to mark the 50th anniversary of that event. The design shows Banister mid-stride as he closes in on his record.

(Images courtesy & © The Royal Mint)

The Boy Scouts celebrated their centenary in 2006, and the Girl Guide movement did in 2010. Each occasion saw issue of a distinctive 50p piece showing emblems of the movements.

(Image courtesy & © The Royal Mint)

Finally, 2009 marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of Kew Gardens. This year is the 10th anniversary of the release of the Kew Gardens 50p. Just 210,000 coins were issued, making it the rarest 50p design in circulation. The reverse design featured the Great Pagoda that has recently been given a £5 million facelift.

If your favorite dealer is unable to supply the commemorative set, it is available for purchase from www.royalmint.com in a range of precious metal and base proof finishes.

Visitors to this year’s Royal Mint Experience are able to strike their own 2019-dated BU Britannia 50p.


This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.


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One Response to Britain’s 50-pence coin turns 50

  1. translateltd says:

    It may be a nit-picky point, but it’s worth remembering that Britain’s “old” coins continued to circulate until the official changeover date in 1971, and that the “Britannia” penny continued to be struck with a frozen date for a couple of years after 1967, so there would have been plenty of new coins in circulation with the Britannia design throughout this period, with no discontinuity. There’s probably a good quiz question in the fact that, in 1969, Britannia thus appeared on two entirely different denominations, forming part of two different series (pre-decimal penny with frozen 1967 date and decimal 50np), which were struck for circulation in the UK in the same year.
    While the decimal bronze coins (½, 1 and 2 new pence) which lacked the Britannia effigy were struck a few years early, they were pre-dated “1971”, and didn’t officially enter circulation until that year. It was quite a messy period for UK coinage if you look at which coins were being produced and what dates they actually carried during the 1968-71 period!

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