World Coins

UK among several nations issuing 50-penny coins

Editor's note: this is the third part of a story about collecting 50-cent coins (and equivalents) by Jeff Starck that appeared in the January 2016 monthly issue of Coin World.

Britannia has a long and storied history on coinage of what is now the United Kingdom.  

Rooted in antiquity, she has become synonymous with Great Britain, now the United Kingdom of Britain, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For 40 years, the seven-sided 50-penny coin was home to Britannia, before a redesign in 2008 sent her to the sidelines. 

But the denomination remains home to circulating commemorative designs as well. 

Four years after the 50-penny coin debuted amid decimalization, the first circulating commemorative 50-penny coin was released in 1973, marking Britain’s entry in the European Economic Community (the forerunner to the European Union).

Since then, nearly 50 different designs of 50-penny coins have been issued with commemorative themes. 

Notable designs include the 1994 coin celebrating the 50th anniversary of D-Day, showing the Allied forces in the sea and sky. 

Sporadic at first, issuance of commemorative 50-penny coins has been nearly annual since 2003, and in 2006 for the first time included two coins in the same theme, the Victoria Cross’s 150th anniversary.

Other topics include 2007’s Scouting Movement Centennial and the 2009 Kew Gardens anniversary, the latter of which has received much attention for having the lowest mintage of a 50-penny coin.

Most circulating commemorative 50-penny coins, however, were issued in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games. A series of 29 different designs honor the sports and athletes of the Games, and multiple versions in base metal and precious metal were issued.

The series served to attract many new collectors in the United Kingdom who spent hours searching their change to build a set. The 50-penny coin that explained soccer’s offsides rule garnered huge amounts of press for the Royal Mint, and the program was, according to Royal Mint officials, wildly successful.

Several other issuers have presented seven-sided “imposters” to the 50-penny coins from the United Kingdom. Seven nations, all in the sphere of influence of the British Empire or close by, issued seven-sided 50-cent or equivalent coins.

The Falkland Islands’ angular 50-penny coin depicts the extinct Falkland Islands fox. But the nation’s 1982 50-penny coin marking liberation of the island from Argentina, early numismatic propaganda in that ongoing foreign policy fight, is round. 

Gibraltar’s 50-penny coin has a range of designs, notably the general circulation issues with porpoises. A commemorative Christmas series from Gibraltar most years depicted whimsical scenes of Santa but on occasion showed a more meaningful design like the Three Wise Men on 1988’s coin, or two shepherds guarding the flock on the 2002 coin. 

The Isle of Man’s standard seven-sided 50-cent coin highlights a sailing Viking ship, though numerous Christmas and other commemorative designs can be found on the Isle’s denomination as well.

The 50-penny coin from Jersey depicts the Gothic gate arch at Grosnez castle on the island, or the island’s coat of arms, while Ireland’s seven-sided 50-penny coin (issued before adoption of the euro) shows the woodcock. A special design in 1998 marked the Dublin Millennium. 

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