In 2008, Matthew Dent redesigned the UK’s definitive coins following a public competition which saw over 4,000 designs submitted.
His Royal Shield of Arms design was chosen by The Royal Mint Advisory Committee to feature on the reverse of all UK coins, and when each coin from the penny to the 50p is placed together, the completed design reveals the full shield. The lower section of the shield can be seen on the reverse design of the UK 50p.
Definitive 50ps are usually issued into circulation every year and generally go unnoticed as they are so readily available and mintage figures are often in the high millions.
Since 2008 this coin has been issued into circulation six times, but which Royal Shield 50p is the rarest?
The Royal Mint only issues coins based on demand, and therefore the coin wasn’t issued for circulation in 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2016. In the years that the coin was issued, the mintage figures vary from just 1,800,000 all the way up to 49,001,000.
By far the rarest 50p shield is the 2017 coin, which is actually the second rarest 50p coin in circulation!
The Kew Gardens is known as the UK’s rarest circulation 50p, with a mintage of just 210,000 and the next rarest commemorative 50p is the 2017 Sir Isaac Newton, with a mintage of 1,801,500. However, when you include definitive coins into the mix, the 2017 Royal Shield actually knocks the Sir Isaac Newton off second spot, with 1,500 less coins issued.
The most common Royal Shield 50p is the 2014 coin, with a mintage of 49,001,000, although this is not the most common 50p in circulation…
That title goes to the old definitive, featuring Christopher Ironside’s Britannia design. This design was first issued in 1969 as the first seven sided coin, issued to replace the 10 shilling note.
In 1997 the coin was made smaller and lighter and the old coins ceased to be legal tender in the UK. Therefore, a whopping 456,364,100 Britannia 50p coins were issued that year to replace the old design, making the 1997 Britannia 50p Britain’s most common 50p.
Are the definitive 50p coins worth collecting?
As collectors, we often focus on the rarer commemorative designs when it comes to building our collections, but I think the chart above just goes to show why we shouldn’t overlook the rarity of the definitive coins.
You’re very likely to come across the Royal Shield 50p in your change (in fact, there might be one in your pocket right now!) so make sure you keep your eyes peeled to see if you can find the rare 2017 coin for your collection!
Own the UK’s rarest Royal Shield 50p within the 2017 Royal Mint Pack!
This set is no longer available from The Royal Mint, but today you can own all 13 of the United Kingdom’s 2017 annual coins in the Royal Mint Brilliant Uncirculated pack, including the UK’s rarest Royal Shield 50p.
It’s been more than 10 years since Matthew Dent redesigned the UK’s definitive coins to create the Royal Shield of Arms design, but there are still some people who don’t actually realise that these coins can be pieced together to complete the shield.
Dent’s design was chosen by The Royal Mint Advisory Committee following a public competition which saw over 4,000 designs submitted. “I felt that the solution to The Royal Mint’s brief lay in a united design,” he explained. “United in terms of theme, execution and coverage over the surface of the coins.”
Using all the coins from the 1p to the 50p and fitting them together like a jig-saw, the complete shield is revealed, as seen on the £1 coin design issued from 2008 until 2015.
Of course, the old round pound has now been replaced by the 12 sided £1, featuring the Nation’s of the Crown design. But, the definitive 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p shield coins can still be found in your change, meaning the Royal Shield can still be collected and completed.
In fact, I bet if you were to check the change in your pocket right now, you’d be surprised by how much of the shield you’ll already be able to piece together!
So why not try collecting the shield, and if you’d like to give yourself even more of a challenge, how about collecting the whole shield for each year, starting with the coins issued in 2008.
As we’ve now come to the 10th anniversary of these coins, perhaps there will be a re-design on the horizon? If the reverse of our definitive coins were redesigned, what design would you like to see on the new coins?
Complete the shield with the Royal Arms Shield Collector Card!
Designed to fit neatly into your Change Checker Album, this Collector’s card allows you to assemble the Royal Arms Shield by simply using your loose change.
A survey by Gocompare recently found that as many as 21% of Britons would like to scrap copper coins, leaving the 5p as the lowest circulating denomination.
In fact, out of the 2,000 adults who participated in the survey, 68% claimed they prefer to empty their pockets of copper coins rather than carry them around or spend them.
And who can blame them?
To all intents and purposes, 1p and 2p coins are worthless because you can’t use them to buy anything.
Matt Sanders of Gocompare commented: “Our survey suggests that for many people, copper coins have had their day. In a world of higher prices, plastic cards and contactless payments, copper coins seem increasingly worthless and irrelevant.”
Other developed nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada have all taken steps to remove their minimum denominations, so why has Britain not yet followed suit?
Retaining the penny makes some sense because of the tendency for businesses to use a 99 pence pricing tactic. But why do we need a 2p coin? Would it be a problem if we were never to see it again?
The missing jigsaw piece
The answer is: probably not.
However, it would pose a problem for collectors.
The famous Royal Arms Shield jigsaw puzzle which has been a quirky design feature of British coins since 2008 uses the reverse design of every coin from the penny to the 50p – including the 2p.
Could this be the reason that the Royal Mint have been reluctant to scrap it?
What do you think should happen? Have your say in our poll below: