Definitions

British 50p Coin

Fifty pence (British decimal coin)

The British decimal fifty pence (50p) coin – often pronounced "fifty pee" – was issued on 14 October 1969 in the run-up to decimalisation to replace the ten shilling note. Despite the coin's novel shape, there was initial confusion in some areas, with the coin being mistaken for both the old Half Crown and the new ten pence piece.

The coin is minted from an alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel. Between 1969 and 1997 the coin weighed 13.50 grams and had a diameter of 30.0 millimetres. In 1997 the coin was reduced in size to weigh 8.00 grams with a diameter of 27.3 millimetres. Apart from the reduction in size the design remained essentially the same (although the original is no longer legal tender). The coin is not circular but is an equilaterally curved heptagon to aid identification. The sides are not straight but are curved so that the centre of curvature is the opposite apex of the coin. In other words, whilst the coin is of a shape which doesn't have a fixed radius about any point, it does have a fixed diameter as a minimum dimension across the face of the coin. This allows the coin to be more easily used and verified as legal tender automatically in vending machines and slot machines for example and also to roll freely (see also curve of constant width). The same shape, though of a smaller diameter, was also later used for the twenty pence piece.

The current reverse of the coin was designed by Matthew Dent who in April 2008 won a Royal Mint competition to redesign the reverses of all circulating coins (except the £2 coin). It depicts the lowest point of the Royal Shield, with the words FIFTY PENCE below the point of the shield. The original reverse of the coin, designed by Christopher Ironside, depicted a seated Britannia alongside a lion, accompanied by either NEW PENCE (1969-1982) or FIFTY PENCE above Britannia, with the numeral 50 underneath the seated figure.

Three different obverses have been used so far – from 1969 to 1984 the head of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin, from 1985 to 1997 the head by Raphael Maklouf, and since 1998 the head by Ian Rank-Broadley.

As of December 2005 there were an estimated 769 million 50p coins in circulation.

Variations

Up to 2008 there have been eighteen varieties of 50p coin, six large and twelve small, as follows.

Large – standard design

1969–1972, 1974–1981
Obverse: Machin head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date,
starting to the right of the head.
Reverse: Britannia and lion, 50 below, NEW PENCE above.
Dates 1971–1972 and 1974–1975 were issued in collectors' sets only.
1982–1984
Obverse: Machin head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date, starting to the right of the head.
Reverse: Britannia and lion, 50 below, FIFTY PENCE above.
Date 1984 only available in collectors' sets.
1985–1993, 1995–1997
Obverse: Maklouf head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date, starting to the bottom left of the head.
Reverse: Britannia and lion, 50 below, FIFTY PENCE above.
All dates except 1985 available in collectors' sets only. Demand for the 50p coin decreased with the issue of one pound coins in 1983.

Large – commemorative issues

1973: Commemorates the UK's accession to the European Economic Community.
Obverse: Machin head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D, starting to the right of the head, no date.
Reverse: Nine clasped hands, 1973 50 PENCE in the centre.
1992–3: Commemorates the completion of the EC single market and the British presidency of the EC.
Obverse: Maklouf head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D, starting to the bottom left of the head.
Reverse: Conference table with seats and stars, 50 PENCE below, 1992 1993 above.
Very few issued into circulation.
1994: 50th anniversary of the Normandy Landings ("D-Day").
Obverse: Maklouf head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 1994, starting to the bottom left of the head.
Reverse: An invasion force of ships and planes, 50 PENCE to the right. Designed by John W Mills.

Small – standard design

1997
Obverse: Maklouf head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 1997, starting to the bottom left of the head.
Reverse: Britannia and lion, 50 below, FIFTY PENCE above.
Issued only in 1997, but in very large numbers as it had to replace all the earlier types of 50p coin, which were withdrawn from circulation within 6 months.
1998–2008
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Britannia and lion, 50 below, FIFTY PENCE above.
2008–
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: The bottom apex of the Royal Shield, FIFTY PENCE below.

Small – commemorative issues

1998: 25th anniversary of Britain joining the EU.
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Arrangement of 12 stars with 1973 EU 1998 underneath and 50 PENCE below. Designed by John W Mills.
5 million minted, but not often found in circulation.
1998: 50th anniversary of the National Health Service.
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Caring hands holding sun's rays, FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY above and 50 PENCE below, NHS repeated 5 times around the border.
5 million minted, but not often found in circulation.
2000: 150th anniversary of the Public Libraries Act of 1850.
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 2000, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Open book above pillared building inscribed PUBLIC LIBRARIES 1850 2000 above and 50 PENCE to the right.
5 million minted, but not often found in circulation.
2003: Centenary of the Women's Social and Political Union (the Suffragettes). (The image shown is of a gold proof version of the coin.)
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 2003, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Suffragette chained to railing holding a banner inscribed WSPU in her left hand, 50 PENCE to the left and a billboard inscribed GIVE WOMEN THE VOTE to the right, with 1903 below and 2003 to the right.
2004: 50th anniversary of the first sub-four-minute mile, Roger Bannister, 6 May 1954.
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 2004, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Lower body of a runner, superimposed on a stopwatch showing 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. Large 50 and PENCE at bottom, between runner's legs.
2005: 250th anniversary of the publication of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language.
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 2005, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: 50 at top, with the dictionary definitions of 'fifty' and 'pence'.
2006: 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross.
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 2006, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Pictures of both sides of the Victoria Cross, inscribed 29 JAN 1856 with VC FIFTY PENCE below. Designed by Claire Aldridge.
2006: 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross. (The image shown is of a gold proof version of the coin.)
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 2006, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: Soldier carrying wounded comrade, FIFTY PENCE below. Designed by Clive Duncan.
2007: 100th anniversary of the Scout Movement.
Obverse: Rank-Broadley head, inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D 2007, starting to the bottom left of the head, IRB under the bust.
Reverse: The traditional Scouting fleur-de-lys, FIFTY PENCE above, scouting motto BE PREPARED below. Designed by Kerry Jones, Royal Mint engraver/designer.
2009: 250th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Mintages for circulation strikes

  • 1969 ~ 188,400,000
  • 1970 ~ 19,461,500
  • 1971-1972 ~ none
  • 1973 ~ 89,775,000
  • 1974-1975 ~ none
  • 1976 ~ 43,746,500
  • 1977 ~ 49,536,000
  • 1978 ~ 72,005,500
  • 1979 ~ 58,680,000
  • 1980 ~ 89,086,000
  • 1981 ~ 74,002,000
  • 1982 ~ 51,312,000
  • 1983 ~ 62,824,904
  • 1984 ~ none
  • 1985 ~ 682,103
  • 1986-1991 ~ none
  • 1992 ~ 109,000
  • 1993 ~ none
  • 1994 ~ 6,705,520
  • 1995-1996 ~ none

size reduced

  • 1997 ~ 456,364,100
  • 1998 ~ 74,350,500
  • 1999 ~ 24,905,000
  • 2000 ~ 39,172,000
  • 2001 ~ 84,999,500
  • 2002 ~ 23,907,500
  • 2003 ~ 26,707,030
  • 2004 ~ 44,348,000
  • 2005 ~ 30,254,500

External links

References

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