Fifty pence (British coin)

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Fifty pence
United Kingdom
Value 0.50 pound sterling
Mass (1969–1994) 13.5 g
(1997–present) 8.0 g
Diameter (1969–1994) 30.0 mm
(1997–present) 27.3 mm
Thickness 1.78 mm
Edge Plain
Composition Cupro-nickel
Years of minting 1969–present
British fifty pence coin 2015 obverse.png
Design Queen Elizabeth II
Designer Ian Rank-Broadley
Design date 1998
British fifty pence coin 2015 reverse.png
Design Segment of the Royal Shield
Designer Matthew Dent
Design date 2008

The British decimal fifty pence (50p) coin – often pronounced fifty pee – is a unit of currency equaling one half of a pound sterling. It is a seven-sided coin formed as an equilateral curve heptagon,[1] a curve of constant width, meaning that the diameter is constant across any bisection. Its obverse has featured the profile of Queen Elizabeth II since the coin’s introduction in 1969. Three different portraits of the Queen have been used, with the latest design by Ian Rank-Broadley being introduced in 1998. The second and current reverse, featuring a segment of the Royal Shield, was introduced in 2008.

Twenty pence and fifty pence coins are legal tender only up to the sum of £10; this means that it is permissible to refuse payment of sums greater than this amount in 20p and 50p coins in order to settle a debt.[2]

As of March 2013 there were an estimated 920 million 50p coins in circulation with an estimated face value of £459.617 million.[3]


Original reverse: 1969–2008

The original reverse of the coin, designed by Christopher Ironside, and used from 1969 to 2008, is a seated Britannia alongside a lion, accompanied by either NEW PENCE (1969–1982) or FIFTY PENCE above Britannia, with the numeral 50 underneath the seated figure.

To date, three different obverses have been used. In all cases, the inscription is ELIZABETH II D.G.REG.F.D. 2013,[4] where 2013 is replaced by the year of minting; the Benjamin Britten coin (2013) additionally has the denomination, FIFTY PENCE, on the obverse, before the year.[5]

As with all new decimal currency, until 1984 the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin appeared on the obverse,[6] in which the Queen wears the 'Girls of Great Britain and Ireland' Tiara.

Between 1985 and 1997 the portrait by Raphael Maklouf was used,[6] in which the Queen wears the George IV State Diadem.

In 1997 the 50p coin was reduced in size and the older coins were removed from circulation. The design remained unchanged.

Since 1998 the portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley has been used,[6] again featuring the tiara, with a signature-mark IRB below the portrait.

In August 2005 the Royal Mint launched a competition to find new reverse designs for all circulating coins apart from the £2 coin.[7] The winner, announced in April 2008, was Matthew Dent, whose designs were gradually introduced into the circulating British coinage from mid-2008.[8] The designs for the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p coins depict sections of the Royal Shield that form the whole shield when placed together. The shield in its entirety is featured on the £1 coin. The 50p coin depicts the lowest point of the Royal Shield, with the words FIFTY PENCE below the point of the shield. The coin's obverse remains unchanged. It should be noted that this coin is an example of a shape of constant width. Shapes of constant width are shapes that have constant width but are not circular.[9]


In addition to the standard designs there have been several variant reverse designs used on the 50p coin to commemorate important events. These are summarised in the table below.

Year Event Design Designer Mintage[10]
1973 United Kingdom's accession to the European Economic Community The inscription "50 PENCE" and the date of the year, surrounded by nine hands, symbolising the nine members of the Community, clasping one another in a mutual gesture of trust, assistance and friendship David Wynne 89,775,000
1992–93 United Kingdom's Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the completion of the Single European Market A representation of a table on which are placed twelve stars, linked by a network of lines to each other and also to twelve chairs around the table, on one of which appear the letters "UK", and with the dates "1992" and "1993" above and the value "50 PENCE" below Mary Milner Dickens 109,000
1994 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings A design representing the Allied invasion force heading for Normandy andfilling the sea and sky, together with the value "50 PENCE" John Mills 6,705,520
1998 United Kingdom's Presidency of the European Union, and the 25th Anniversary of the United Kingdom's accession to the European Economic Community A celebratory arrangement of stars with the letters "EU" between the Anniversary dates "1973" and "1998", and the value 50 PENCE below John Mills 5,043,000
1998 50th Anniversary of the National Health Service A pair of hands set against a pattern of radiating lines with the words "FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY" and the value "50 PENCE",accompanied by the initials "NHS" which appear five times on the outer border David Cornell 5,001,000
2000 150th Anniversary of the Public Libraries Act 1850 The turning pages of a book, the Anniversary dates "1850" and "2000", and the value "50 PENCE", all above a classical library building on which appear the words "PUBLIC LIBRARIES" and,within the pediment, representations of compact discs Mary Milner Dickens 11,263,000
2003 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Women's Social and Political Union The figure of a suffragette chained to railings and holding a banner on which appear the letters WSPU, to the right a ballot paper marked with a cross and the words GIVE WOMEN THE VOTE, to the left the value 50 PENCE, and below and to the far right the Anniversary dates 1903 and 2003 Mary Milner Dickens 3,124,030
2004 50th Anniversary of the first four-minute mile by Roger Bannister The legs of a running athlete with a stylised stopwatch in the background and the value 50 PENCE below James Butler 9,032,500
2005 250th Anniversary of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language Entries from the Dictionary for the words FIFTY and PENCE, with the figure 50 above, and the inscription JOHNSON'S DICTIONARY 1755 below Tom Phillips 17,649,000
2006 150th Anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross Depiction of the obverse and reverse of a Victoria Cross with the date 29 JAN 1856 in the centre of the reverse of the Cross, the letters VC to the right and the value FIFTY PENCE below Claire Aldridge 12,087,000
2006 150th Anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross Depiction of a soldier carrying a wounded comrade with an outline of the Victoria Cross surrounded by a sunburst effect in the background Clive Duncan 10,000,500
2007 Centenary of the Foundation of the Scouting Movement A fleur-de-lis superimposed over a globe and surrounded by the inscription "BE PREPARED", the dates "1907" and "2007", and the denomination "FIFTY PENCE" Kerry Jones 7,710,750
2009 250th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew A design showing the pagoda encircled by a vine and accompanied by the dates “1759” and “2009”, with the word “KEW” at the base of the pagoda Christopher Le Brun 210,000
2010 Celebrating 100 Years of Girlguiding UK A hexagon made of six of the shamrock symbols of Girlguiding Jonathan Evans and Donna Hainan 7,410,090
2011 Celebrating 50 years of the work of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Fifty small symbols showing the range of work of the WWF Matthew Dent 3,400,000
2013 Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Christopher Ironside The design which Ironside made for the 50p coin, showing the Coat of arms of the United Kingdom Christopher Ironside 7,000,000
2013 Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten The composer's name, written across musical bars, value is on the obverse for the first time Tom Phillips 5,300,000
2014 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow[11] A cyclist and a runner, separated by the Flag of Scotland Alex Loudon and Dan Flashman -

There are also 29 different variants not listed here which were minted in 2011 in celebration of the 2012 Summer Olympics.[12]



  1. ^ The seven sides of a UK 50p Coin
  2. ^ Royal Mint Frequently Asked Questions
  3. ^ Estimated Coins in Circulation, Royal Mint
  4. ^ Clayton, Tony. "Decimal Coins of the UK – Bronze". Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  5. ^ "The 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Benjamin Britten 2013 UK 50p Coin". The Royal Mint. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "1p Coin". British Royal Mint. Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2006-05-23. 
  7. ^ "Royal Mint seeks new coin designs", BBC News, 17 August 2005
  8. ^ "Royal Mint unveils new UK coins", 2 April 2008
  9. ^ "Mathematical Explorations with MATLAB", Google Books, 31 January 2014
  10. ^ a b c United Kingdom decimal coins issued into general circulation, Royal Mint
  11. ^ "The Royal Mint announces coins for 2014". Royal Mint. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  12. ^ London 2012 coin designs and specifications, Royal Mint. Retrieved 2014-05-08.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ten shilling note
Half Pound
Succeeded by