50 years on folk still fascinated by the 50p piece

The collectable designs on the 50p piece have created a nation of coin collectors, experts have said as the coin celebrates its 50th birthday this week.
Alan Wilson is a coin collector 
.Alan Wilson is a coin collector 
Alan Wilson is a coin collector .

The coin, which despite being named a “monstrous piece of metal” at its creation in 1969, has since featured over 60 designs on the reverse, including Beatrix Potter characters and most recently, Paddington Bear. Some of the Paddington Bear coins were selling for £1,000 on eBay just days after they were released earlier this year.

But coin experts say that the collectable piece has sparked an interest in coins across a wider range of people, with schoolchildren swapping them in the schoolyard and people collecting entire jars of them at home.

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Robert Murray of Robert Murray Stamp Shop in Edinburgh, said: “People initially become interested because the subjects are interesting and it attracts them to something they would never have thought they would be interested in before.

“There are a lot of people who have got into coin collecting because of the 50ps. They come in looking for a particular 50p and are surprised to find that we have Roman coins for just £2 or £3 and that they’re 2,000 years old and that starts them off.”

Some of the most sought after designs are almost impossible to get hold of outside of auction sites such as eBay.

The Kew Gardens 50p is the rarest coin in circulation, with just 210,000 of them created a decade ago. to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the gardens. Meanwhile, a 2017 version of the basic 50p featuring the the royal coat of arms are also highly sought-after due to a relatively small number having been produced.

Nicola Howell, executive director of consumer business at the Royal Mint, said: “Over the last 50 years the 50p has grown to become one of the most collectable coins. Its iconic and revolutionary shape is distinctive, and has led to it becoming one of the most loved coins amongst the public.”

The coins have also proved popular among schoolchildren. Parent Rhona MacInnes said her 10-year-old daughter, who is at primary school in Aberdeenshire, swaps collectable 50p pieces in the playground.

She said: “It’s become a thing at my daughter’s school – all the kids look out for them, swap and so on.”

However, Iain Young of Grampian Stamp Shop in Aberdeen, said that a lot of new 50p collectors hoped their coins were worth a lot of money.

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He said: “A lot of people come in and ask me what I will pay them for a 50p coin and I reply ‘50p’. They believe they are worth more because of what they see on eBay.

“However, hopefully it gets people collecting something and that is all time spent away from screens.”

Case study:

Alan Wilson, a project manager from Edinburgh, has around 150 different 50p pieces - including standard designs from different years, as well as multiple full sets of some of the special edition coins.

He said: “I have always kept an eye on my change for interesting coins and had a small collection as a child, but it was really when the Olympic Games 50p pieces came out for London 2012 a few years ago that I started collecting them properly.

“Now, I have quite a lot of them and also collect some other coins too, including a full set of euros from all of the different countries. That’s quite difficult, because they keep reissuing them with different pictures on them and so many countries are involved.

“I’ve also got a collection of silver halfpennies that were my father-in-law’s.

“I have paid for coins on eBay before – to complete a particular collection – but the most I’ve spent for a 50p piece is about £5. The most rare 50p piece is the Kew Gardens one and I haven’t got that yet. Coins eventually disappear out of circulation and become harder to find, you don’t see the Olympics ones in your change anymore.

“The main way I find the coins I want is in my change, but, like everyone, I’m increasingly using less cash and paying for everything by card, so I have to keep reminding myself that if I want change, I’m going to have to pay for things with cash.”