Why did The Royal Mint revert to the Queen’s decimal first effigy?

2021 marks 50 years since our UK coins turned decimal, in the biggest numismatic change seen in centuries.

In celebration of this significant anniversary, The Royal Mint issued not one, but TWO Decimal Day 50ps in 2021. The reverse designs are the same, but that certainly can’t be said for their obverses…

The first version of the Decimal Day 50p, available exclusively in the 2021 Annual Coin Set, features the original Arnold Machin portrait of Her Majesty The Queen on the obverse – the same obverse used for the UK’s very first decimal coins.

However, the individual coin which was released later in January, featured Jody Clark’s fifth portrait of The Queen instead.

So why did The Royal Mint revert back to the Queen’s first decimal effigy for this new issue? Join Change Checker as we take a closer look…

Spot the Difference

The 50p available in the Annual Set which features the original Machin portrait on the obverse, quickly caught the eyes of collectors as this was the first time we have seen The Royal Mint revert a previous portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II on a base metal UK coin.

Marking 50 years since our UK coins went decimal, it seemed only fitting that this coin should include Machin’s obverse design.

But, when the Decimal Day 50p was individually released later in January, collectors had the opportunity to get their hands on a second version of this coin, as Jody Clark’s portrait of The Queen featured on the obverse.

So with two versions of the 2021 UK Decimal Day 50p out there, this coin is set to become a real talking point among collectors!

Arnold Machin Portrait

The significance of this anniversary and the fact that the Machin portrait of HM QEII was the first to be used on the UK’s 50p, makes for the perfect excuse to revert back to this previous effigy on the exclusive Decimal Day 50p within the Annual Set.

The UK’s very first decimal coins (5p, 10p, followed by 50p) actually entered circulation before 1971 and as they were circulating together with pre-decimal currency, a new portrait of The Queen was commissioned to help the new coins stand out.

Arnold Machin’s new portrait showed The Queen wearing a tiara given to The Queen by her grandmother, Queen Mary.

We love the fact that collectors have the chance to see this previous portrait reused on this brand new 50p and it certainly makes for interesting collecting!

Have you secure both versions of the 2021 Decimal Day for your collections? Let us know in the comments below!

But that’s not all, as this is not the first time we’ve seen different obverses used on the same coin…

2015 Battle of Britain 50p

In 2015, The Battle of Britain 50p shot to fame as collectors were quick to spot that there were THREE different versions of the coin, with different obverses on each of them.

The Brilliant Uncirculated 50p was issued early in 2015 and was quickly dubbed an ‘error’ coin. The coins, which were sold in presentation packs, had been struck without the denomination in either numbers or writing anywhere on the coin. Chancers were quick to play to this, with some managing to sell on the coins for near to £100 each on the secondary market.

After the controversy surrounding the coin erupted, the Royal Mint confirmed that the 50p intended for circulation later on in the year would have the ’50 PENCE’ denomination. But was this after they had realised their mistake?

So how did this coin end up with three different obverses?

Each version of this coin has caused a stir in the collecting world. Not only does this Battle of Britain 50p fail to feature a denomination on the Brilliant Uncirculated version, but the obverse is different for each finish used for the coin – a first for a UK commemorative coin.

In 2019, a brand new re-issued Brilliant Uncirculated version of the Battle of Britain 50p (from the 2019 50th Anniversary of the 50p Military Set) saw Jody Clark’s portrait and the 50 PENCE denomination – making this the FOURTH version of this 50p!

Do you have any of the Battle of Britain 50p coins? Let us know in the comments below!

Secure the 2021 Annual Set with the Decimal Day 50p that features the original Arnold Machin obverse!

Secure the 2021 Annual Coin Set for JUST £40.00 (+p&p) by clicking here >>

Own ALL FIVE brand new 2021 coins in superior collector quality for JUST £40.00 (+p&p).

Each coin has been struck to a superior Brilliant Uncirculated quality and protectively encapsulated in official Change Checker packaging, within in a Change Checker Display Page – perfect to slot into your Change Checker Album.

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  1. Les Kent on February 20, 2021 at 3:12 pm

    Hi Alexandra
    It has to be said that the 2021 coin set is very nice with two new £2 coins and two new 50p coins with one being a very special anniversary 50p a very nice coin indeed with the Arnald Machin obverse which is special in its self as it is a smaller version of the original and with the 50 pence added below the Queens portrait make it a completely different obverse to the original and as for the reverse this is a great design showing most of the old coins with the new shape 50p.
    BUT all that said I do think that considering all the revenue and profit the Royal mint have made over the past 50 years they could have come up with a much better idea to celebrate the 50th Anniversary and I Might add the great successe of the decimal coins, and with this present climate regarding the 1p and £2 coin being dropped there won’t be much left for the mint to sell,
    Keep up the informative work well done.

  2. Stu on February 13, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    I’ve just seen the Blog comment on your 60 count of different 50ps. I’m up to 70 (post 1997) , not counting the Olympic Series and yet to get the 2021 pieces. Which ones haven’t you considered?

    • Alexandra Siddons on February 15, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Stu,

      We refer to there being more than 60 coins because there is of course over 100 coins (including Olympics and pre-97 50ps) 🙂


    • Les Kent on February 20, 2021 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Stu
      Have you included the 1971,72,74 & 75 in you collection if so then you should have 176 different 50p coins to date in your collection.
      This includes 30 of the old large 50ps, 132 standard and commemorative 50p, 29 Olympic, 18 proof 50p and 1 Rare Aquatic 50p., is this any help.

  3. Karen Darkings on February 10, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    I hadn’t even noticed when I got the annual set. It really is a great tribute to the old money and is my favourite one out of the annual set.

  4. Jim on February 9, 2021 at 9:03 am

    A great idea to use the original Arnold Machin portrait to commemorate Decimal Day, but inclusion of the denomination on the Obverse I think results in a squeezed up legend and smaller portrait, when compared with the original Machin decimal obverse. Would have been better to repeat what happened in 2015 and leave the value off – as it’s only issued as a collector version that wouldn’t have been a problem.

  5. Bryan Clark on February 8, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Do you have the 2021 Decimal Day 50p coin for sale outwith the 2021 Year Set?

  6. Peter Foster on February 8, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Hello, is it possible to buy the decimal day 50 pence with the Arnold Machin obverse as I only save the 50 pence coins.

    • Alexandra Siddons on February 9, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      Hi Peter,

      Unfortunately this coin wasn’t issued for individual release and is only available as part of the 2021 Annual Set.


  7. Jane Deamer on February 7, 2021 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for this article, I have the 2021 annual set and decimal bu but hadn’t spotted the difference! I will be checking more closely in the future!

    • Alexandra Siddons on February 9, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      So glad you found this blog useful and interesting, Jane! And how wonderful that you now have both versions of the Decimal 50p 🙂

  8. Keith Parkker on February 7, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    I have x3 of the Battle of Britain the silver proof far to expensive and I have both of the new decimal 50ps

    • Adrian Charlton on February 12, 2021 at 11:58 pm

      Hi Keith, You don’t need to buy the silver proof Battle of Britain, the standard proof in cupro-nickel is the same design, and a lot less to buy. They do come up on ebay from time to time when sets get opened by the breakers.

  9. Tom on February 7, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    I have the original effigy of the Queen with the royal mint pack and the 5th portrait in the Westminster blue carded

  10. john on February 7, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    Thankyou this was very informative

  11. LORD Dave L. Chance on February 7, 2021 at 10:02 am

    Including every annual set to date.
    I also have every set of coins from my birth year 1957 to 2021. Imperial and decimal complete.
    Plus every coin of each denomination from first year of mintage in Imperial and Decimal.

  12. LORD Dave L. Chance on February 7, 2021 at 9:53 am

    I also have every 50pc coin ever minted as BUNC edition.

  13. LORD Dave L. Chance on February 7, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Yes I did notice the different effigies on all coins and have every one of them as BUNC coins