Published on April 29th, 2015 | by Sarah Jubb
All About The Fifty Pence Coin
This week’s article in our legal tender coin series takes a look at the most valuable coin worth less than one pound in the British currency, the fifty pence coin. It is the second largest coin in circulation after the £2 coin with a diameter of 27.3mm and the seven sided heptagon shape matches the twenty pence coin, helping to distinguish it from the other coins.
Another similarity to the twenty pence is that it is still made from cupro nickel, unlike the five pence and ten pence coins which changed from cupro nickel to nickel plated steel in 2012 due to the rising costs of metal. It is also only legal tender for sums up to £10, after which it can be refused for payment.
The fifty pence coin is famous in Britain for the unique reverse designs as each year the Royal Mint releases a new design to celebrate or commemorate a special event in British history and culture. The original and default image used was a seated Britannia, the personification of Britain, accompanied with a lion and a shield featuring the Union Flag.
Britannia had appeared on all British coinage continuously since 1672 until 2008, when the default design of the fifty pence changed to show the lowest point of the Royal Shield which is now depicted on all of the British pence currency. The section of the shield is the lower portion of the Lion’s Rampant that signifies England and the Harp that signifies Ireland.
It is interesting to note that after seven years, Britannia will be re-appearing on British coins once more, only this time she is taking her place on the £2 coin and not her traditional fifty pence coin. The fifty pence coin has also featured many important events in British history such as the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1994, the 50th Anniversary of the NHS in 1998 and more recently the 100th anniversary of the Girl Guides in 2010.
The Royal Mint celebrated the London Olympics in 2012 by releasing 29 variants that depicted various Olympics and Paralympics sports, from archery and boccia to wheelchair rugby and equestrian. These various designs help to make the fifty pence a highly collectible coin, and in 2014 it was announced that the Kew Gardens coin, first produced in 2009, was the most sought after coin in circulation.
This is because only 290,000 of these coins were produced, making them exceptionally valuable to collectors. According to experts at the time, these coins were valued up to 200 times the face value of the actual coin. The high value of these coins meant that they were expected to disappear out of circulation as collectors snapped them up.