50 years of the 50p
British Culture Set
Over the years the 50p has celebrated British achievements, events and milestones. The variety and quality of these commemorative designs have sparked something of a collecting craze. This hugely popular coin has captured the imagination of the entire country. More often than not it’s the gateway coin to starting a collection.
Meanwhile, the sheer volume of coins needed meant The Royal Mint had to move from Tower Hill to a production facility in South Wales. In 1968 the new site in Llantrisant was opened by Her Majesty The Queen and the copper coins required for the changeover went into production. The 5p and 10p coin entered circulation in April 1968. They corresponded in size and value to the old shillings and florins, making it easy to identify them as their ‘decimal twins’.
Released in 1969, the 50p was the world’s first seven-sided coin and replaced the 10-shilling note – amplifying the sense of change. With the new 50p, 10p and 5p in circulation that just left the three copper coins to come. They were introduced two years later in 1971, when the changeover to the new system went live.
Overseeing production of the 50p was Lord Fiske, chairman of the Decimal Currency Board. The choice of design was in stark contrast to the shape of the coin. But, this radical departure was no heptagonal novelty, rather it was designed to roll smoothly in vending machines.
The 50th Anniversary of the First Sub-Four-Minute Mile
Roger Bannister and his rival John Landy had both been threatening to break the four-minute mark for the mile. On 6 May 1954, the British medical student beat the Australian to the magic number. Conditions at the Iffley Road track in Oxford were far from ideal. Bannister nearly called off his attempt due to the gusting crosswinds but thankfully he changed his mind. Careful planning made a tilt at the record possible. Lead out by pacemakers Chris Brasher and Chris Chattaway, 200 metres from home, Bannister kicked for the line, taking the tape in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. 3,000 jubilant spectators witnessed a piece of history in the making.
What was happening that year – 2004
The summer Olympics were held in Athens, the government announced plans to introduce university tuition fees, ten new countries joined the European Union, heads of state gathered to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day and we said goodbye to Hollywood legend Marlon Brando who died aged 80
Just 210,000 Kew Gardens 50p coins were released into circulation, making it the rarest 50p design. Much hyped among the collecting community, the coin itself marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of this venerable institution, the country’s most famous royal botanical garden. The reverse design, created by Christopher Le Brun RA, features the famous Chinese Pagoda at Kew with a decorative leafy climber twining in and around the tower.
What was happening that year – 2009
Matt Smith was named as the new Doctor Who, the UK suffered its worst snowfall for 20 years and after an online campaign, Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry’s The Climb to the Christmas number one spot.