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Rare 50p coins: how to identify a valuable one

Sep 9, 2019

The hunt is on for 400 Peter Rabbit 50p piece

The Royal Mint

The coins in your pocket could be worth far more than their face value, if one of 400 newly released special 50ps is among them.

The Great British Coin Hunt, part of the Royal Mint, is distributing 400 Peter Rabbit 50p pieces around the country.

The Peter Rabbit 50p was previously only available directly from the Royal Mint for £10, with silver proof and gold proof versions selling for £65 and £795 respectively.

The Royal Mint said: “The Peter Rabbit 2019 coin is a commemorative only coin. These will not be entering general circulation.”

But Kellie, one of the Great British Coin Hunt team members, said: “We are circulating the 2019 Peter Rabbit. We're hoping we're going to get 40 volunteers to help us do this around the country.”

The team hopes to have released all the coins by the end of the month, says the Coventry Telegraph.

So how do you know if your 50p is valuable?

Experts at Changechecker.org have compiled an index that tracks the scarcity of 50p coins.

Generally, the rarer the coin, the more valuable it is. However, some editions have become unexpected success stories, says Kevin Clancy, director of the Royal Mint Museum.

Kew Gardens

The rarest 50p coin currently in general circulation is a Kew Gardens piece, designed to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2009.

It depicts the Gardens’ famous pagoda and only a relatively small batch of 210,000 were minted, “meaning you can now expect around £80 for one”, says iNews.

“It’s an attractive design, but it wasn’t intended to make it the most valuable, it just turned out that way,” Clancy told The Daily Telegraph. “I think the market finds its own way.”

Coin collecting book Spend It? Save It? What should you do?, written by Phil Mussell and the production team of Coin News Magazine, estimates the coin’s value at around £100. However, a rare silver Kew Gardens 50p recently sold at auction for £400. iNews says the coin was a proof, meaning it is un-circulated and extremely rare.

2012 Olympics

Earlier this year, one 50p sold on eBay for £590, 1,180 times its face value.

It was one of 29 50p designs released to mark the 2012 Olympics Games in London.

The 50p depicted an Olympic swimmer in action, with wavy lines across their face to represent water. It was one of only 600 produced before the design was amended to show the athlete more prominently, says The Mirror.

The coin was listed on eBay on 13 May for a starting bid of just 1p. It sold 10 days later for £590 after attracting 47 bids from 12 interested parties.

The swimmer isn’t the only Olympic design popular among collectors. A host of different designs released to celebrate the 2012 Olympic Games are in high demand, particularly those depicting football, the triathlon, judo and wrestling.

Beatrix Potter

The Peter Rabbit 50ps are just one of a series of Beatrix Potter coins released by the Royal Mint, following the success of the initial 2016 run marking 150 years since the author's birth.

Collectible colour versions of the new designs are available from the Royal Mint website, with special editions of the Peter Rabbit coin available from £10 for an uncirculated version of the standard coin, from £60 for a silver-proof coloured coin, and up to £1,000 for a gold one.

Older versions of the Beatrix Potter 50p coins also rank highly on the Change Checker index, and will typically achieve a premium of roughly 10–12 times its face value.

A Peter Rabbit 50p coin from the first run was recently on sale on eBay for £5,000. The seller, “megsmum13-2008” explains the high fee is because the coin is a circulated version of the first Peter Rabbit Half Whisker coin released in 2016.

However, while the coin on offer is described as “overly rare”, “it may not be worth as much as the asking price” says the Daily Express.

Spend it? Save it? What should you do? said the coin has a value of £4.

It has also given the coin a mintage of 9,600,000 which means it is not a rare find and buyers should be careful when trying to purchase one.

Benjamin Britten

The Change Checker index says the most common queries it receives are about the Benjamin Britten 50p coin, minted in 2013 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the British composer.

“There’s no doubt that the Britten 50p was somewhat overlooked when it was first released and it is amongst the slightly more scarce coins in circulation,” it says.

Although some are being offered on eBay for upwards of £1,000, experts predict even a “brilliant uncirculated version” would only be worth roughly £10.

 

Paddington Bear

To mark Paddington Bear’s 60th birthday year in 2018, the Royal Mint dedicated a special-edition 50p coin to honour the famous children’s book character.

Coins are available in a range of finishes and prices start at £10 for a mint condition coin.

However, when one of the specialised 60th anniversary editions was accidentally released ahead of time, it was found by a college student in Wales and appeared to sell on eBay for £16,000, iNews reports.

Gruffalo

The Gruffalo, created by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, is one of the latest fictional characters to be commemorated on a 50p piece. The famous character got his own coin in February to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the much-loved book’s first publication.

Given the popularity of the books, the limited-edition coins are expected to fetch much more than their face value.

Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings 50p coin is one of the most sought after in circulation, but it's not technically rare.

The coin, which commemorates the 1066 battle won by William the Conqueror, was printed by the Royal Mint in 2016.

There are around 6.7 million of them in circulation but that has not stopped one being listed for sale on eBay for as much as £3,595.

1992 Euro

The 1992 50p piece featuring 12 stars and minted to commemorate the founding of the EC Single Market has been known to sell for around £50 to £55 online.

“These are the old-fashioned chunky 50 pences so you are unlikely to turn one up in your change, but it could be worth checking any long-term penny jars,” says the Daily Mirror.

And with the UK set to leave the EU, they could prove an even greater lure for Europhile collectors.

The 50th anniversary special editions

This year a set of five special coins will be released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 50p piece. Five designs minted over the past 50 years have been selected for the anniversary, celebrating “key cultural milestones and favourite pieces of coin collectors”, says ITV News.

It includes the 50p design from 2004 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s world-record sub-four-minute mile, the “new pence” 50p and two coins celebrating the centenaries of the Scouts and Girl Guides. It also includes the 50p that marked Kew Gardens’ 250th anniversary ten years ago.

Since the seven-sided coin was first introduced in 1969, “the distinctive design has become a popular addition to the nation’s pockets and wallets”, says Nicola Howell, director of consumer business at the Royal Mint.

The “new pence” 50p design, which depicted Britannia seated beside a lion, was in circulation for nearly 40 years until it was phased out in 2008 and is expected to be particularly popular with both collectors and members of the public.

The Independent says visitors to The Royal Mint Experience in south Wales will be able to strike their own 2019-dated 50p Britannia New Pence, “which will be placed in special, augmented-reality enabled packaging”.

The sets, which range from £90 for the standard collection to £3,825 for a gold collection, have all been reserved.

Brexit

Last year, the Treasury announced plans for a new 50p coin commemorating Brexit to be issued on 29 March 2019, the day the UK was originally due to leave the European Union.

The design for the limited-edition coin was to be emblazoned with the slogan “Friendship With All Nations”, and they were expected to fetch a high price when released with collectors eager to snap up a piece of history.

However, plans to release the coin in time for Brexit were put on hold after the government was forced to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50.

New Chancellor Sajid Javid is already making plans for a commemorative 50p to be released to coincide with the 31 October Brexit date, says the BBC.

The coins would bear the words “peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations” and will feature the new departure date.

But with MPs voting last week to block no deal and delay Britain’s exit from the EU again, it may be some time before the new coins are minted.

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