On this day, 265 years ago, Samuel Johnson’s English Dictionary was officially published.

The dictionary is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of scholarship in the history of the English Language.

So influential in fact, it was used by famous authors such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde. The dictionary took eight years to compile and listed 40,000 words – quite the achievement!

In 2005, The Royal Mint honoured Johnson’s gruelling work with the Dictionary’ 50p, issued to mark the 250th anniversary of its publication.

To celebrate 15 years since the release of this coin, we thought we would take the opportunity to explore the UK coins celebrating great British authors who have used Johnson’s dictionary.

Now, as many Change Checkers will already know, there’s been no shortage of great authors celebrated on our coinage – from classic children’s authors like Beatrix Potter and Julia Donaldson, to Victorian greats like Charles Dickens and Conan Doyle – there’s a big selection of coins to choose from!

To keep it simple, we’ve selected our Top Five below…

#5 2020 William Wordsworth £5

A brand new coin creeping in here in 5th place. This coin was issued in March of 2020 to celebrate 250 years since the birth of the famous poet and this is the first time Wordsworth has been celebrated on a UK coin.

UK 2020 William Wordsworth £5

Wordsworth is considered one of the most popular poets to have written in the English language, gaining fame during the beginning of the English Romantic period.

Designed by David Lawrence, the reverse features lines taken from one of Wordsworth’s most celebrated poems, ‘Tintern Abbey’. 

#4 Beatrix Potter Series

It just wouldn’t be a Change Checker coin list without the Beatrix Potter 50p series making an appearance – coming in 4th place here!

The complete UK Beatrix Potter 50pSeries

Beatrix Potter’s book ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ has sold some 150 million copies since its release in 1903. The much-loved children’s character was initially featured on a 50p coin in 2016.

The 50p designs by Emma Noble have been taken straight from the illustrations of the original books and started an unprecedented collecting phenomenon. The series continued throughout 2016, 2017 and 2018 with a standalone Peter Rabbit 50p being issued in 2019 and 2020 as well.

#3 2012 Charles Dickens £2

A list of great authors wouldn’t be complete without Charles Dickens, and a list of great coins wouldn’t be complete without the Charles Dickens £2!

UK 2012 Charles Dickens £2

Dickens’ enchanting stories, vivid characters, and depiction of Victorian life are widely acknowledged across the world by critics and scholars alike and his novels and short stories continue to be widely popular to this day.

The reverse design of this £2 coin by Matthew Dent features Dickens’ recognisable profile crafted from the titles of his most famous works.

This coin had a circulating mintage of 8,190,000 and is one of my personal favourites!

#2 2020 Agatha Christie £2

First seen as part of the 2020 Annual Coin Set, the 2020 Agatha Christie £2 coin takes our 2nd place!

UK 2020 Agatha Christie £2

Issued to mark the 100th anniversary of Dame Agatha Christie’s genre-defining murder mysteries, the author of 66 detective novels and 150 short stories, Agatha Christie has justly earned the title of the ‘Queen of Crime’.

The reverse design of this coin, by David Lawrence, depicts a jigsaw puzzle with a question mark, representing the mystery behind her stories. 

We are yet to find out if this coin will be issued for general circulation, but if it is we’re certain Change Checkers will be rushing to find it

#1 2019 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 50p

Our personal favourite, and taking the #1 spot, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 50p! And for us, there really could be no other winner..

UK 2019 Sherlock Holmes 50p

Conon Doyle revolutionised the crime genre with his creation of one Britain’s best-loved detectives, Sherlock Holmes.

To mark the 160th anniversary of Doyle’s birth, The Royal Mint issued a commemorative 50p coin paying homage to the author’s legendary works.

The reverse has been designed by Stephen Raw and features a silhouette of Sherlock Holmes smoking a pipe, surrounded by a few of the most-famous Holmes story titles.

This coin only went into circulation in 2019 so we’re yet to hear what the mintage figure is for this special 50p but we’re certain any Change Checker lucky enough to have come across this in their change will be keeping tight hold of it!

So there we have it! Britain’s best authors celebrated on UK coinage! We’ve shared our Top Five, now what are yours? Let us know in the comments below!


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3 Comments

  1. Jane Deamer on April 15, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    Hello checkers,
    Loving the list and more than ok that shakespeare is missing!
    Looking forward to agatha coin.



  2. Mervyn Hood on April 15, 2020 at 9:23 am

    What????? NO William Shakespeare??????? SO important they even produced not one, not two BUT THREE £2 coins to commemorate his works in 2016, one for each genre – comedies, tragedies and histories.



    • Rachel Hooper on April 15, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      HI Mervyn, it’s so hard to narrow the list down to just 5. The Shakespeare coins would be a great addition to the list!