This year the 50p celebrates 50 years since its introduction in 1969, when it was released as the first coin in the new decimal series.
In 1967, the Deputy Master of The Royal Mint approached the Decimal Currency Board to discuss the introduction of a new coin as a more economical replacement for the 10 shilling note or ’10 bob’, which was only lasting 5 months in circulation at the time, compared to the 50 year lifespan of a coin. With much difficulty and debate to decide upon the best shape, the seven sided design was finally chosen (the first of its kind) and released 2 years later.
The original reverse was designed by Christopher Ironside and featured the seated Britannia alongside a lion. This coin was issued between 1969 and 2008, after which The Royal Mint held a public competition to redesign the reverse of UK coins, with Matthew Dent’s winning shield design featuring on the reverse of definitive 50p coins since.
Vote for your favourite 50p coin!
There have been over 70 designs released on UK 50p coins over the last 50 years, and their longevity is testament to the 50 year lifespan claimed by the Deputy Master of The Royal Mint.
But with so many different 50p designs being issued, which one is your favourite?
We’ve split the coins up into the 4 categories below so that you can vote for your favourite from each before choosing an overall winner out of the top 4 shortlisted.
Click on the links below to vote for each category:
- Vote for your favourite Pre 1997 50p here >>
- Vote for your favourite Beatrix Potter here 50p >>
- Vote for your favourite Olympic 50p here >>
- Vote for your favourite Modern 50p here >>
We’ll announce the top 4 coins shortlisted and give you the chance to vote for your favourite overall 50p coin next week.
If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:
– Find and identify the coins in their pocket
– Collect and track the coins they have
– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers
Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app
Standing strong for over 1,100 years throughout Britain’s wars, political upheavals, social and economic progress and technological and scientific advances, The Royal Mint’s history can be traced back through our country’s coinage.
But it was on the 17th of December 50 years ago that The Queen herself opened the new site for The Royal Mint, which was moved to a purpose-built site in Llantrisant following 157 years at Tower Hill, London.
This was the first time since its inception that The Royal Mint had been based outside of London, and marked an incredibly important moment in the history of our coins.
The move to Llantrisant
In 1966 it was announced that Britain would adopt a new decimal currency. This meant that hundreds of millions of new coins would need striking and Tower Hill simply didn’t have enough space to cope with this demand and so the decision was made to find a new location for The Royal Mint.
Llantrisant made it onto the shortlist of the top 7 locations, and as James Callaghan (Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Mint and an MP for Cardiff) supported a move to Wales, Llantrisant was chosen for the big move.
Britain’s new Mint
The announcement was made in 1967 and construction soon began on the new site. For the Llantrisant area, the move meant more work and a regeneration of the town, as well as adding to the sense of history and tradition. It was estimated that the move would provide 10,000 jobs to South Wales.
It was in 1968 that the site was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen when she switched on the coining presses to begin production of decimal bronze coins.
Llantrisant was built to house the most advanced coining machinery in the world and have a larger capacity than any other mint in Europe, necessary to cope with the amount of new coinage needed.
When the site opened, the circulating coin presses could strike up to 200 coins per minute, however the latest generation of presses today strike around 750 coins per minute!
Decimalisation of Britain’s coins
The 15th of February 1971 is known as the day that Britain “went decimal”.
Whilst this was the official ‘Decimal Day’, three years before this, the new 5p and 10p coins were actually introduced. These coins were the same size and value as the existing one and two shilling coins to make the transition easier for the British public.
It was in 1969 that the first seven sided coin – the 50p – was introduced to replace the 10-shilling note as a more economical alternative and then finally, on Monday 15 February 1971, the transition was complete when the half penny, 1p and 2p coins were also introduced.
The new Mint at Llantrisant successfully transformed hundreds of years of everyday currency from 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound, to the new pound made from 100 new pence.
Today the Royal Mint is the market leader and the largest single supplier of plated coins and blanks in Europe. They can produce 90 million coins and blanks a week – that’s almost 5 billion coins a year!
And all this has been made possible thanks to the advanced facilities at Llantrisant, as pictured above, without which the move to decimal coinage simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Own this Historic Royal Mint anniversary DateStamp™
To mark the move of The Royal Mint to Llandistrant, you have the opportunity to own the Royal Mint in Wales 50th Anniversary DateStampTM.
Featuring the 2016 Wales £20 coin with the iconic Welsh dragon design, and postmarked 17th December 2018, exactly 50 years since The Royal Mint moved to Wales.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of arguably the most important moment in British numismatic history – the first coins issued for decimalisation.
In 1968, the British public would have found 5p and 10p coins in their change for the very first time, issued as part of Britain’s conversion to a system of decimal currency.
The coins bore new heraldic designs, but were exactly the same size and value as shillings and florins, which meant the changeover process should have been a smooth transition. However, after generations of pounds, shillings and pence, the Decimal Currency Board still needed to reassure suspicious Britons to go decimal – a case which had actually been argued as long ago as 1696 by Sir Christopher Wren.
It was the 1960 report by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce and the British Association for the Advancement of Science which finally set into action a currency based upon simple multiples, a system already adopted by a number of Commonwealth countries including Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
A massive number of coins were required for the changeover, forcing The Royal Mint to move location from Tower Hill to its new production facility in Llantrisant, South Wales, where the first of almost six billion coins required for decimalisation went into production.
It was then on the 23rd April 1968 that the new 5p and 10p coins went into circulation, operating as legal tender up to the sum of £5, with mintage figures of 98,868,250 and 336,143,250 respectively.
The humble 5p featured the Christopher Ironside reverse design until 2008 and has since featured Matthew Dent’s reverse design, following a public competition held by The Royal Mint. On the 27th June 1990, a reduced size version of the coin was introduced and the older, larger coins were withdrawn on the 31st December 1990, although the design remained unchanged.
Similarly, the 10p coin also featured Christopher Ironside’s reverse design up until 2008 when this was replaced by Matthew Dent’s. However, the 10p remained a larger coin until the 30th September 1992, when the reduced size version was introduced, with the larger coin being removed from circulation a year later.
As we seem to move ever closer towards a cashless society, the questions lingers as to how long these decimalised coins will remain a necessity… However, this year’s release of 26 brand new A-Z of Great Britain 10p coin designs just goes to show that the demand for the smaller denomination coins is still there. In fact, these little coins have become incredibly sought-after and have dominated news stories and conversations amongst collectors, with everyone wanting to get their hands on the elusive coins!
Although the nation seemed reluctant to accept these decimal coins back in 1968, I think it’s fair to say that they have now become a much loved part of British coinage and as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first decimalised coins, we can look back with fondness for the 5p and 10p coins.
Own the very first coins issued for decimalisation!
The First Decimalised Coins include the original 5p and 10p coins from their first year of issue, 1968.