Remember the time when money really could wear a hole in your pocket? The original 50p piece (above), weighed in at the best part of 14 grams and was bigger than the UK’s current two pound coin. In comparison, today’s 50p coins – at a mere 8 grams – feel decidedly flimsy.
One thing they do have over their predecessor, however, is their function as a design canvas. Over the last 15 years, the Royal Mint has been using the back of the 50p as the site for a surprising variety of commemorative illustrations, all of which are gathered together here…
The original 50p coin (shown above), designed by Christopher Ironside, was introduced in 1969 and featured a symbol of Britannia that has appeared on our coinage since 1672. In design terms though the coin was the first ever to take the shape of an equilateral curve heptagon. Its breadth is constant which allows it to roll – essential for use in slot vending machines.
This 50p coin was issued in 1973 to commemorate the United Kingdom’s accession to the European Economic Community. The inscription “50 PENCE” and the date of the year, surrounded by nine hands, symbolising the nine members of the Community (the small, dainty hand on the right is supposed to represent the Queen), clasping one another in a mutual gesture of trust, assistance and friendship. Designed by David Wynne
This is the revised design, by Christopher Ironside, of the 50p coin with a new inscription. In September 1997, following the shrinking of our 5 and 10p coins (in 1990 and 1992 respectively), the new smaller 50p coin was introduced
This design celebrates United Kingdom’s Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the completion of the Single European Market. A representation of a table on which are placed twelve stars, linked by a network of lines to each other and also to twelve chairs around the table, on one of which appear the letters “UK”, and with the dates “1992” and “1993” above and the value “50 PENCE” below. Designed by Mary Milner Dickens
Marks the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. The design represents the Allied invasion force heading for Normandy and filling the sea and sky, together with the value “50 PENCE”. Designed by John Mills
This design celebrates the United Kingdom’s Presidency of the European Union, and the 25th Anniversary of the United Kingdom’s accession to the European Economic Community. The design consists of a celebratory arrangement of stars with the letters “EU” between the Anniversary dates “1973” and “1998”, and the value 50 PENCE below. Design: John Mills
This coin marks the 50th Anniversary of the National Health Service. A pair of hands set against a pattern of radiating lines with the words “FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY” appears on the coin’s face along with the value “50 PENCE”, accompanied by the initials “NHS” which appear five times on the outer border. Designed by David Cornell
Celebrates: 50th Anniversary of the Public Libraries Act.
The design, by Mary Milner Dickens, shows the turning pages of a book, the Anniversary dates “1850” and “2000”, and the value “50 PENCE”, all above a classical library building on which appear the words “PUBLIC LIBRARIES” and, within the pediment, circular representations of compact discs
This marks the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union. It shows the figure of a suffragette chained to railings and holding a banner on which appear the letters WSPU, to the right a ballot paper marked with a cross and the words GIVE WOMEN THE VOTE, to the left the value 50 PENCE, and below and to the far right the Anniversary dates 1903 and 2003. Designed by Mary Milner Dickens
This coin commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the first four-minute mile, run by Roger Bannister. Which explains the design depicting the legs of a running athlete with a stylised stopwatch in the background. Designed by James Butler
This typographic design marks the 250th Anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. It shows entries from the Dictionary for the words FIFTY and PENCE, with the figure 50 above, and the inscription JOHNSON’S DICTIONARY 1755 below. Designed by Tom Phillips
Celebrating the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross, this 50p coin design shows a depiction of the obverse and reverse of a Victoria Cross with the date 29 JAN 1856 in the centre of the reverse of the Cross, the letters VC to the right and the value FIFTY PENCE below. Designed by Royal Mint engraver Claire Aldridge
Also celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Victoria Cross, this coin designed by sculptor Clive Duncan, shows a soldier carrying a wounded comrade with an outline of the Victoria Cross surrounded by a sunburst effect in the background
You probably haven’t seen one of these yet as it’s the latest 50p coin design. Designed by Kerry Jones, it marks the centenary of the Foundation of the Scouting Movement. The design incorporates a fleur-de-lis superimposed over a globe and surrounded by the inscription “BE PREPARED”, the dates “1907” and “2007”, and the denomination “FIFTY PENCE”
Collect them all! But remember you can’t spend more than 20 at once. Apparently.
All the images and info above can be found on the Royal Mint’s website: http://www.royalmint.com