A special set of coins celebrating British cultural history has been unveiled to mark the 50th anniversary of the 50 pence piece. The Royal Mint has released a proof set in honour of the “revolutionary” seven-sided coin introduced in 1969.
It said the designs had been carefully selected to celebrate key cultural milestones and favourite pieces of coin collectors. The set includes a 50p marking Kew Gardens’s 250th anniversary, another commemorating Roger Bannister’s world record sub-four-minute mile, a reissue of the previous ‘new pence’ 50p design and two coins celebrating the centenaries of the Scouts and Girl Guides.
The Kew Gardens coin is a collector’s item because of its low mintage of just 210,000 – making it the rarest 50p design in circulation. First issued 10 years ago, the coin marked the 250th anniversary of founding of Kew Gardens in London and features the landmark Great Pagoda encircled by vines. The building, originally completed in 1762 as a gift for Princess Augusta, recently received a £5 million facelift to restore it to its former glory.
Another coin in the set celebrated the 50th anniversary of Roger Bannister running the first sub-four minute mile in 1954. The British runner is depicted mid-stride on the coin as he crossed the finish line at the Iffley Road track in Oxford in three minutes and 59.4 seconds.
One hundred years of the Scouting movement was marked by a coin featuring the World Scout Emblem alongside the iconic motto “be prepared”. Robert Baden-Powell, a British cavalry officer, established the Scouts in 1907 to help instil a sense of resourcefulness and a code of chivalrous behaviour among boys aged 11 to 14. A fourth coin in the commemorative set marked 100 years of the Girl Guides.
In 1910, Baden-Powell asked his sister Agnes to create a similar group for girls. The coin’s design features a special arrangement of the Girl Guides trefoil.
The fifth coin in the set is a version of the 50p that was in circulation for 40 years before being replaced by a Matthew Dent design in 2008.
The “new pence” 50p featured Christopher Ironside’s depiction of the national icon of Britannia seated beside a lion while she rests on her shield.
Nicola Howell, director of the consumer business at The Royal Mint, said: “Since the 50p entered UK circulation 50 years ago, the distinctive design has become a popular addition to the nation’s pockets and wallets.