How much is a 50p worth? A 50p coin is legal tender for half a pound, but depending on the coin, could sell to a collector for hundreds of pounds, possibly even more.
The largest coin in the common denomination, the 50p is frequently used for commemorative occasions. Minted in smaller batches, these coins are rarer than standard coins and can be of particular interest to collectors either for their rarity or because of what they commemorate.
While some varieties are rarer and in higher demand, a coin can sometimes sell for a surprising amount of money. There’s even more money if a mistake or deformity can be found, so keep a sharp lookout. Below we’ll talk about some things to keep in mind as you search through your spare change.
History Of The 50p Coin
The 50 pence coin, commonly shortened to 50p, originated as a replacement for the ten-shilling note. Britain’s currency was moving to decimalization and a ten-shilling note had an average lifespan of five months. A coin that could last decades was considered more practical.
To comply with currency rules and be practical for regular use, some design planning was necessary. The coin had to be able distinguished at a glance, work for sorting machines and vending machines, and not be too heavy or expensive to make.
After several experiments with different metals, shapes, and designs, the now distinct shape was decided upon, a heptagon. The first 50p coins were minted in 1969. In 1997, the coins were made slightly smaller, as they remain to this day. The larger 50p coins are no longer in circulation.
Excluding commemorative coins, which we will discuss later, there have been several standard designs over time. Four different portraits of Queen Elizabeth II have been used, by four different artists, on the obverse. In the first and third portraits, she is shown wearing the ‘Girls of Great Britain and Ireland’ tiara. In the second and fourth, she is shown wearing the George IV State Diadem.
The original reverse, designed by Christopher Ironside, was used from 1969 to 2008. This featured a seated figure of Britannia next to a lion, with an olive branch in one hand and a trident in the other. The number 50 is below her, and above her are the words ‘NEW PENCE’ (1969-1981) or ‘FIFTY PENCE’ (1982-2008). The coins were also printed to be read point up.
In 2008, with the exception of the £1 and £2 coins, all coins were redesigned with a unified plan that the coins, when put together, should show the Royal Shield. The 50p coin shows the bottom point of the shield, and the coin design was rotated to be read as point down. This design was created by Matthew Dent.
While the pictures in use at the time didn’t change, the 50p coin did change dimensions in 1997.When introduced, the 50p coin had a mass of 13.5 g, a diameter of 30.0 mm, and a thickness of 2.5 mm. After 1997, the coin had a mass of 8.0 g, a diameter of 27.3 mm, and a thickness of 1.78 mm. It has always been made of a combination of copper and nickel.
What Are The Rarest 50p Coins?
The rarest 50p coin is the Kew Gardens commemorative, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Kew Gardens. There were only 210,000 created. There were also 29 variants made to represent the different sports at the 2012 London Olympic Games and a 2018 Peter Rabbit commemorative which are rare.
Of the coins made for circulation, not just for proof sets, the rarest is the 1992-93 commemorative for the completion of the Single European Market. It shows a table with twelve interconnected stars and twelve chairs around the table with the years 1992 and 1993 over top. Only 109,000 coins were minted, making them extremely rare. These coins are no longer in circulation.
The rarest still in circulation is the well-known and much desired Kew Gardens commemorative, minted to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Kew Gardens. Minted in 2009, only 210,000 coins were created, making it one of the rarest coins in the world.
Honorable mention goes to the 29 variants made to represent different sports that were mint in 2011 to celebrate the London Olympic Games in 2012. Only about a million of each were created.
While there have been multiple commemoratives of Beatrix Potter characters, the 2018 version of Peter Rabbit had 900,000 minted, making it also desirable for collectors. This is not to be mistaken for the 2016 version of Peter Rabbit, which had close to 10 million coins made, or the 2017 version which, at almost 20 million made, is one of the more common commemorative coins.
What Are The Most Common Commemorative 50p Coins?
The most common commemorative coin is a 1973 commemorative 50p coin that honors the United Kingdom joining the European Union’s predecessor, the European Economic Community. The second most common is the 2017 commemorative of Benjamin Bunny, which is part of the larger Beatrix Potter collection.
Unfortunately, just commemoratives are not inherently rare or desired by collectors.While probably rarer than the standard 50p from any given year, some of the commemoratives were made in large numbers.
The commemorative with the largest mint run, by far, is the first. In 1973, a commemorative 50p coin was put out in honor of the United Kingdom’s joining of the European Economic Community, a predecessor of the European Union. In addition to the year and number, nine hands were shown clasping each other to show mutual trust and aid. Almost 90 million of these coins were released.
The second most common is the 2017 commemorative of Benjamin Bunny, part of the Beatrix Potter collection. The same year that over 19 million Peter Rabbits were released also saw the minting of 25 million Benjamin Bunny coins. Clearly, it was a good year for rabbits. Jeremy Fisher and Tom Kitten only got about 10 million each the same year.
The only other commemorative to break 13 million was the 2005 coin to memorialize the 250th anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. Over 17 and a half million coins were minted for that occasion. On average, most commemoratives are minted in batches of 4-10 million.
The 4 Most Valuable 50p Coins
While any coin can be an outlier, as shown later, these coins are the ones that, on average, tend to sell for the most.
1. 2009 Kew Gardens
The 2009 Kew Gardens, as mentioned, is the rarest 50p coin in circulation. The going price for even an average one can be almost £75. One in good shape or with a misprint could sell for more. One seems to have sold for £707.
2. 1992-1993 Single European Market
The 1992-1993 Single European Market, despite being rarer than the Kew Gardens, sells for less on average. When one shows up on eBay, the average price is about £50, possibly more if it is one of the proof sets instead of a circulated coin.
3. 2011 Olympic Coins
While the desirability of these coins can vary from year to year, the ones that have sold for the most are Wrestling, Football, Judo, and Triathlon. Wrestling is the rarest at 1.2 million, while the others have 1.6 million coins minted. These can sell for between £16-25.
4. 2018 Peter Rabbit And 2018 Flopsy Bunny
These coins can sell for up to £5 each. While that may not sound like much, it is ten times face value for a very new coin.
Knowing the average of a coin’s value is important because it shows how much your coin may go for. On the other hand, every once in a blue moon, a coin sells for far beyond what is expected. A word of warning, many online auctions have elements of anonymity, meaning no one can tell if the sale actually went through.
As mentioned previously, 2009 Kew Gardens coins have sold for hundreds of pounds on multiple occasions. Why one may sell for £75, another for £300, and a third for £700 is unknown. But that isn’t the biggest sale for a 50p coin.
The 2016 Battle of Hastings coin commemorates the 950th anniversary of said battle. Over 6 million of these coins were made, making them of average scarcity for a commemorative 50p coin. On average it sells for between £3-10. But two eBay sales, one in 2017 and one in 2020, had sales ending in £7,000 and £63,000 respectively. As noted, these sales cannot be confirmed to have gone through.
Misprints, Deformities, And Counterfeits
While coins are made in large batches to look identical, sometimes things happen. The coin gets misaligned. Something is printed twice. A mistake is made and not caught before the coin is released. If your particular coin has one of these, then it may be even more valuable than the standard version. After all, collectors like the unique.
Unfortunately, sometimes those little mistakes mean that your coin is counterfeit and therefore worthless. While it may seem unlikely that anyone would bother counterfeiting a 50p coin, there are more than 44 million counterfeit £1 coins according to the Royal Mint. While no statistics have been released for 50p coins, fakes certainly exist.
Common ways to detect a counterfeit are badly defined edges and a mismatch between the date and design. When in doubt, you can have your coin evaluated by the Royal Mint or a local bank.
The 50p coin is not rare or old, however, there are variants of it that can go for some decent money. Commemorative coins are can be worth quite a bit depending on the specific one that you have, and misprints or deformities can go for a large amount as well. Be sure to watch out for counterfeits.