|Years of minting||1969–present|
|Design||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Design||Seated Britannia alongside a lion|
|Design||Segment of the Royal Shield|
The British decimal fifty pence coin (often shortened to 50p in writing and speech) is a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1⁄2 of one pound. Its obverse features the profile of the current Monarch since the coin's introduction in 1969. As of October 2022[update], five different royal portraits have been used.
As of March 2013[update] there were an estimated 920 million 50p coins in circulation. The coin has proved popular with coin collectors leading to numerous differing designs for both commemorative and circulating coins.
Fifty pence coins are legal tender for amounts up to the sum of £10 when offered in repayment of a debt; however, the coin's legal tender status is not normally relevant for everyday transactions.
In 1967 the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint approached the Decimal Currency Board to ask for their advice on the introduction of a new coin. The 10-shilling note then in use was lasting only five months and it had been suggested that a coin, which could last fifty years, would be more economical. The problem with this was that all coins are arranged in "tiers", each coin in a tier having the same weight-to-value ratio so that a bag of mixed coins could be weighed to ascertain the value so long as they were all bronze, all silver, etc. Each coin was identified within its tier by its size and each tier had to be capable of being identified by sight and touch. This was achieved in the then-existing sets by the use of different materials ("bronze", "brass" and "silver") with the bronze coins having plain rims, the nickel-brass threepenny bit being 12-sided and the silver coins having milled rims. If the 10-shilling coin was to be made in the same tier as the silver coins it would have to be twice the weight of the Crown (then and now only in use for commemorative coins) and it was generally agreed that that would make it very unpopular and expensive. It would therefore have to be in a new tier of its own.
The Mint could not find a suitable metal which was sufficiently different in colour to the existing coins and which would not tarnish. This last point was thought to be important because the new coin would be the most valuable coin in general circulation in the world (equivalent to £9.65 in 2021). It therefore had to be a different shape; various methods had been used overseas to overcome this problem but none were without drawbacks. A hole through the coin did unacceptable things to the Queen's head (a legal requirement on British coins), and wavy-edged, flat-edged or square coins could not be used in the coin-handling machinery which was then coming into increasing use in industry, banking and vending. To be used in a vending or sorting machine a coin would have to roll under gravity and be capable of being measured without being presented in a special way; in other words it needed a constant breadth at whichever angle it was measured.
The Technical Member (and the only engineer) on the Decimal Currency Board was Hugh Conway, at that time President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Managing Director of Bristol Siddeley Engines, Bristol. He had found in a mathematical textbook a formula for a non-circular shape of constant breadth and asked the design office at Patchway, near Bristol, which normally worked on the engines for aircraft such as Concorde, Vulcan and Harrier to draw out the shape. However, this turned out to be a wavy-edged form with re-entrant sides which would not roll and which could not be measured easily. A designer, Colin Lewis, suggested a much simpler shape which in its basic form is an equilateral triangle with a small circle centred on each apex and with a larger circular arc centred on each apex but tangential to each of the two opposite small circles. Wherever it was measured, the breadth of this shape was one small radius plus one large radius. (The small radius was not strictly necessary to the geometry, but made the shape more practical by removing inconvenient sharp points and reducing the rate of wear, and therefore change of size, in handling.) The number of corners could be any odd number greater than one. A drawing was made to illustrate the proposal which was accepted by Hugh Conway. He chose seven sides as a compromise between too radical a shape, which might not be acceptable to the public, and having too many sides, which would make a shape visually difficult to differentiate from a circle. The shape was drawn out by David Brown and samples made from stainless steel by the Model Shop, together with a section of perspex channel with a bend to demonstrate that the "coin" would roll around corners and drop through gauging slots. The legend "50" was photo-etched (from a master drawn by Ray Gooding) on the faces of the samples since it had already been decided that the new coin would be the first coin of the new Decimal series. As the coin was released before Decimal Day it was initially worth 10/- (and therefore 120d).
When the Decimal Currency Board met none of the other members had any suggestion to make, so when the samples were produced the idea was accepted without opposition.
It was the first seven-sided coin in the world. However, there was some confusion and resistance to the new shape after its release on 14 October 1969, where the coins were mistaken for the decimal 10p and Half crowns, which were both round. A group of "Anti-Heptagonists" regarded the coin as 'ugly' and 'an insult to our sovereign whose image it bears'. Geometrically, the shape of the coin forms an equilateral-curve heptagon, or Reuleaux polygon, a curve of constant width, meaning that the diameter is constant across any bisection.
In 1997 the 50p coin was reduced in both diameter and thickness and the older coins were removed from circulation. The new coin was introduced on 1 September 1997. The old larger coin was demonetised on 28 February 1998. The face designs remained unchanged.
The shape of the original 50p coin was also used for the 20p coin, introduced in 1982, but in a smaller size.
For Queen Elizabeth II, four different obverses have been used. In all cases, the inscription is ELIZABETH II D.G.REG.F.D. 2013, where 2013 is replaced by the year of minting; some additionally has the denomination, FIFTY PENCE, before the year (as these coins omit the denomination on the reverse entirely).
From 1998 to 2015 the portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley was used, again featuring the tiara, with a signature-mark IRB below the portrait. In 2008 the obverse design was rotated, to match the new reverse design which is displayed with the heptagon point down rather than point up.
On 3 October 2022, a commemorative 50p coin was released that was the first to carry the portrait of King Charles III following the death of Elizabeth II. The coin, planned both as part of a commemorative set and for general circulation, featured a copy of the design used on the crown (five-shilling piece) released in 1953 to commemorate the Queen's coronation. The portrait of the King was undertaken by Martin Jennings.
The reverse of the coin, designed by Christopher Ironside, and used from 1969 to 2008, is a seated Britannia alongside a lion, holding an olive branch in her left hand and a trident in her right, accompanied by either NEW PENCE (1969–1981) or FIFTY PENCE (1982–2008) above Britannia, with the numeral 50 underneath the seated figure. His original but unused design, of the Royal Arms with supporters was released as a variation in 2013.
In August 2005 the Royal Mint launched a competition to find new reverse designs for all circulating coins apart from the £2 coin. The winner, announced in April 2008, was Matthew Dent, whose designs were gradually introduced into the circulating British coinage from mid-2008. 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 was featured on the now-obsolete round £1 coin. The 50p coin depicts the lowest point of the Shield, with the words FIFTY PENCE below the point of the shield. The coin's obverse remains unchanged.
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 on coin||Event||Design||Designer||Mintage|
|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 and filling the sea and sky, together with the value "50 PENCE". This was the last commemorative coin in the original (larger) size.||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 1||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 2||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 surrounded by the words "Celebrating 100 years of Girlguiding UK"||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|
|2011||Great Britain hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics||29 different designs featuring Olympic and Paralympic sports||Various||See below|
|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||A cyclist and a runner, separated by the Flag of Scotland||Alex Loudon and Dan Flashman||6,500,000|
|2015||75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain||Pilots running to their planes while planes fly above them||Gary Breeze||5,900,000|
|2016||Team GB||A swimmer with the Team GB logo for the 2016 Summer Olympics||Tim Sharp||6,400,000|
|2016||Battle of Hastings||King Harold hit in the eye with an arrow, a detail from the Bayeux Tapestry||John Bergdahl||6,700,000|
|2016||150th Anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter||A portrait of Beatrix Potter above along with her name, dates of her birth and death (1866–1943) and Peter Rabbit||Emma Noble||6,900,000|
|2016||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit||An image of Peter Rabbit and his name||Emma Noble||9,700,000|
|2016||Beatrix Potter: Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle||An image of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and her name||Emma Noble||8,800,000|
|2016||Beatrix Potter: Squirrel Nutkin||An image of Squirrel Nutkin and his name||Emma Noble||5,000,000|
|2016||Beatrix Potter: Jemima Puddle-Duck||An image of Jemima Puddle-Duck and her name||Emma Noble||2,100,000|
|2017||300th Anniversary of Sir Isaac Newton's Gold-Standard Report||Stylised depiction of the Sun as the common focal point of three orbits of different planets||Aaron West||1,800,000|
|2017||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit||An image of Peter Rabbit and the words "The Tale of Peter Rabbit"||Emma Noble||19,900,000|
|2017||Beatrix Potter: Mr. Jeremy Fisher||An image of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (a frog) and his name (June 2017)||Emma Noble||9,900,000|
|2017||Beatrix Potter: Tom Kitten||An image of Tom Kitten and his name (August 2017)||Emma Noble||9,500,000|
|2017||Beatrix Potter: Benjamin Bunny||An image of Benjamin Bunny and his name (September 2017)||Emma Noble||25,000,000|
|2018||301st Anniversary of Sir Isaac Newton's Gold-Standard Report||Stylised depiction of the Sun as the common focal point of three orbits of different planets||Aaron West||1,500|
|2018||100th Anniversary of the Representation of the People Act||An image of a crowd of voters, representing the change in suffrage triggered by the law||Stephen Taylor||9,000,000|
|2018||60th Anniversary of the publication of the first Paddington children's story book.||An image of Paddington Bear sitting inside Paddington Station||David Knapton||5,001,000|
|2018||Paddington at the Palace||An image of Paddington Bear holding the Union Flag while standing in front of Buckingham Palace||David Knapton||5,901,000|
|2018||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit||An image of Peter Rabbit in his blue jacket eating carrots, and his name||Emma Noble||1,400,000|
|2018||Beatrix Potter: Flopsy Bunny||An image of Flopsy Bunny in her recognisable red cape and her name||Emma Noble||1,400,000|
|2018||Beatrix Potter: The Tailor of Gloucester||An image of a mouse sitting on a reel of thread, reading a newspaper and the words "The Tailor of Gloucester"||Emma Noble||3,900,000|
|2018||Beatrix Potter: Mrs Tittlemouse||An image of Mrs Tittlemouse the houseproud little mouse carrying her basket and her name above the image||Emma Noble||1,700,000|
|2019||160th Anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle||An image of Sherlock Holmes surrounded by the names of all the Sherlock Holmes books||Stephen Raw||8,602,000|
|2019||Paddington at The Tower of London||An image of Paddington Bear holding a marmalade sandwich whilst standing outside Tower of London||David Knapton||9,001,000|
|2019||Paddington at St Paul's Cathedral||An image of Paddington Bear raising his hat in front of St Paul's Cathedral||David Knapton||9,001,000|
|2020||Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union||The slogan "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations" in a calligraphic font, and the date "31 January 2020". (About a million coins bearing the date "31 October 2019" had to be shredded and melted down. Another version, bearing the date "29 March 2019", was planned for release, but was not issued.) The slogan does not use the Oxford comma which has drawn criticism.||10,001,000|
|2020||Diversity Built Britain||The slogan "Diversity Built Britain" in a calligraphic font on a structure composed of interconnected triangles||Dominique Evans||10,300,000|
|2022||The Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen||A large number 70 with her Royal cypher||Osborne Ross||5,000,070|
|2022||50 years of Pride||Depicts five rainbows (symbol of the LGBTQ+ community) with words "PRIDE", "PROTEST", "VISIBILITY", "UNITY" and "EQUALITY"||Dominque Holmes||5,000,000|
|2022||Commemorating Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II||King's Crown surrounded by four shields bearing the arms of Scotland, England and Ireland; and a thistle, rose, leek and shamrock. This is a copy of the Crown issued for her coronation. First to feature the new King Charles III obverse.||Edgar Fuller & Cecil Thomas||9,600,000|
The following coins were produced by the Royal Mint as commemorative releases only, without being intended for release into circulation:
|Year on coin||Event||Design||Designer||Mintage|
|2018||40th Anniversary of The Snowman||An image of The Snowman holding James' hand while flying over the snowy village by the sea, from the children's book illustrated by Raymond Briggs||Natasha Ratcliffe||170,705 BU Only|
|2019||20th Anniversary of The Gruffalo||An image of the Gruffalo, from the children's storybook written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler||Magic Light Pictures||Unknown|
|2019||1st Anniversary of the death of Stephen Hawking||An image of a black hole and Hawking's formula describing the entropy of a black hole. First coin in the Innovation in Science series||Edwina Ellis||Unknown|
|2019||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit||An image of Peter Rabbit and his name||Emma Noble||Unknown|
|2019||50 years of the 50 pence coin – British Culture Set||A re-issue of five of the most iconic designs— the original Britannia (1969) with NEW PENCE text and micro-engraved mint marks, first sub-four-minute mile (2004), Scouting (2007), Kew Gardens (2009), Girl Guides (2010). All have the new obverse with the year 2019.||Various||Unknown|
|2019||50 years of the 50 pence coin – British Military Set||A re-issue of five military designs – D-Day Landings (1994), Victoria Cross 1 (2006), Victoria Cross 2 (2006), Battle of Britain (2015), Battle of Hastings (2016). All have the new obverse with the year 2019.||Various||Unknown|
|2019||The Gruffalo and Mouse||An image of the Gruffalo and the mouse||Magic Light Pictures||Unknown|
|2019||30th Anniversary of "A Grand Day Out"||An image of Wallace and Gromit looking out of the porthole of their rocket||Nick Park||Unknown|
|2019||The Snowman||An image of The Snowman standing behind James. They are both in front of a mountainous landscape.||Snowman Enterprises||Unlimited|
|2020||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit||An image of Peter Rabbit scrambling under Mr. McGregor's fence, and his name||Emma Noble||Unknown|
|2020||The Dinosauria Collection||Three designs recognising the British discovery of dinosaurs with images of the Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus||Robert Nichols||Unknown|
|2020||100th Anniversary of the birth of Rosalind Franklin||An image of Photo 51. Second coin in the Innovation in Science series||David Knapton||Unknown|
|2020||95th anniversary of Winnie the Pooh||Three coins, with images of Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin and Piglet||Disney||Unknown|
|2020||The Snowman||James and the Snowman shown in an embrace||Robin Shaw||Unknown|
|2021||75th anniversary of the death of John Logie Baird||The design features key milestones from Baird's life, presented between the lines of transmission radiating from the centre of the coin. Third coin in the Innovation in Science series||Osborne Ross||Unknown|
|2021||50th Anniversary of decimalisation||An image of the pre-decimal coins of the United Kingdom prior to decimalisation, including the farthing, the half penny, the penny, threepence, sixpence, one-shilling and two-shilling coins, along with the words "1971 DECIMAL DAY" contained in the seven-sided shape of the fifty pence coin||Dominique Evans||Unknown|
|2021||The Dinosauria Collection||Three further designs recognising the British discovery of dinosaurs with images of the Temnodontosaurus, Plesiosaurus and Dimorphodon||Robert Nichols||Unknown|
|2021||Team GB||Depictions of equipment used for sports in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Some examples feature a 2020 date, due to the postponement of the games until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.||David Knapton||Unknown|
|2021||Winnie the Pooh and Friends||An image of Winnie the Pooh, Rabbit, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger||The Walt Disney Company||Unknown|
|2021||150th Anniversary of the death of Charles Babbage||The fourth coin in the Innovation in Science series, featuring his name.||Nigel Tudman and Jas Bhamra||Unknown|
|2021||Winnie the Pooh: Owl||An image of Owl||The Walt Disney Company||Unknown|
|2021||100th Anniversary of the discovery of Insulin||An image of insulin crystals and its chemical formula. Fifth coin in the Innovation in Science series||Iris De La Torre||Unknown|
|2021||The Snowman||An image of James drawing the mouth on the Snowman||Robin Shaw||Unknown|
|2021||Winnie the Pooh: Tigger||An image of Tigger||The Walt Disney Company||Unknown|
|2022||2022 Commonwealth Games||An image of the iconic design of the Library of Birmingham and the words Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games||Natasha Preece||Unknown|
|2022||Winnie the Pooh: Eeyore||An image of Eeyore||The Walt Disney Company||Unknown|
|2022||Winnie the Pooh: Kanga and Roo||An image of Kanga and her joey Roo||The Walt Disney Company||Unknown|
|2022||100th Anniversary of the BBC||An image of a globe surmounted with transmission arcs, and the words "100 YEARS OF OUR BBC. INFORM EDUCATE ENTERTAIN"||Henry Gray||Unknown|
There are also other variants not listed here which were minted by other Mints, such as Pobjoy Mint
Status as legal tender
Fifty pence coins are legal tender for amounts up to and including £10. However, "legal tender" has a very specific and narrow meaning, and payees may accept or refuse payment in any form they choose.
|Year||Number minted||Reverse||Portrait||Diameter (mm)|
|11,263,000||Public Libraries Act|
|12,087,000||VC – award|
|10,000,500||VC – heroic acts|
|22,747,000||Royal Shield (Dent)|
|53,272,613||Olympic games series|
|5,900,000||Battle of Britain|
|6,700,000||Battle of Hastings|
|9,700,000||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit|
|8,800,000||Beatrix Potter: Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle|
|6,900,000||Beatrix Potter Portrait|
|5,000,000||Beatrix Potter: Squirrel Nutkin|
|2,100,000||Beatrix Potter: Jemima Puddle-Duck|
|19,900,000||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit|
|9,500,000||Beatrix Potter: Tom Kitten|
|9,900,000||Beatrix Potter: Jeremy Fisher|
|25,000,000||Beatrix Potter: Benjamin Bunny|
|2018||9,000,000||Representation of the People Act|
|5,901,000||Paddington at Buckingham Palace|
|5,001,000||Paddington at The Station|
|3,900,000||Beatrix Potter: The Tailor of Gloucester|
|1,700,000||Beatrix Potter: Mrs Tittlemouse|
|1,400,000||Beatrix Potter: Flopsy Bunny|
|1,400,000||Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit|
|9,001,000||Paddington at the Tower|
|9,001,000||Paddington at St. Pauls Cathedral|
|2020||10,001,000||Withdrawal from the European Union|
|9,600,000||Queen Elizabeth Memorial|
|Athletics (high jumper)||2,224,000|
Mint Sets have been produced since 1982; where mintages on or after that date indicate 'none' or 'Proof only', there are examples contained within those sets.
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- Young, Sarah (20 July 2020). "Rosalind Franklin: Royal Mint launches coin to mark 100th birthday of British scientist". Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
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