The seven sides of a 50p coin
The 50p coin was originally introduced in the United Kingdom in 1969. Since then it has become one of the most collected of the nation’s coins.
A world first
The 50p coin replaced the old ten-shilling note, so it changed from being a paper denomination to a minted one. Early designs of the coin had included ten and 12-sided versions, and there was even a square one with rounded corners. However, The Royal Mint decided that a seven-sided (an equilateral heptagon) coin made it easier to tell the 50p apart from the rest of the UK coinage, so the 50p became the world’s first seven-sided coin.
Lighter and smaller
When the 50p was first released into circulation it weighed 13.5 grammes and had a diameter of 30 milimetres. Today it weighs 8 grammes and has a diameter of 27.5 millimetres.
The coin is made from 75% copper and 25% nickel, a mixture which is called cupronickel. Each coin is struck with at least 100 tonnes of force. A single coin press at The Royal Mint can make up to 500 coins a minute which is 720,000 a day.
A record breaker
To celebrate the release of the Olympic Sports 50p series in 2010, Royal Mint employees, their friends and families took part in a Guinness World Record event. The team attempted the world’s largest coin toss.
Carefully watched by an adjudicator, the team threw 1,697 Olympic Sports 50p coins into the air at the same time. This feat is now in the record books!
The 50p coin nearly went into circulation with the Royal Arms on the reverse. However, right at the last moment The Royal Mint decided to use a seated figure of Britannia instead.
Portraits of Her Majesty The Queen
Four portraits of Queen Elizabeth II have featured on the obverse of the 50p coin during its lifetime. For its initial release, the coin used a portrait designed by Arnold Machin RA. From 1985 to 1997 the coin used a portrait by sculptor Raphael Maklouf showing her dressed in the royal diadem which she wears on her way to and from the State Opening of Parliament
- From 1998 to 2015 the coin featured a more realistic and less idealised portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS.
- Since 2015 the 50p piece, like all other UK coins, has been struck featuring the latest effigy of The Queen, designed by Royal Mint coin designer Jody Clark