22 June 2019
The 50p coin first appeared in our change on 14 October 1969. Our history guide follows the coin through the decades, looking at memorable 50p issues along the way.
The seven-sided 50p coin first came into circulation on 14 October 1969, to replace the ten shilling note, ahead of Britain’s move to decimalisation in 1971.
At the time of its release, the new cupro-nickel 50p was the world’s first heptagonal (seven-sided) coin in circulation.
Which monarch appears on the 50p coin?
Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch to have appeared on the obverse of the 50p – she had been on the throne for seventeen years when the coin was introduced and of course, is still Britain’s monarch today. Over the years, four different portraits of the monarch have appeared on the 50p, created by:
- Arnold Machin (1969-84)
- Raphael Maklouf (1985-97)
- Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS (1998-2015)
- Jody Clark (2015-)
Reverse designs of the 50p
The first 50p reverse design was the figure of a seated Britannia beside a lion, with an olive branch in her left hand and a trident in her right. This design appeared between 1969 and 2008.
The numeral 50 appears underneath the design, and the wording above is either ‘new pence’ (1969-81) or ‘fifty pence’ (1982-2008). This design, by Christopher Ironside, was used until 1982, when his revised inscription came into use.
This was replaced in 2008 by a section of the Royal Arms, showing part of the third and fourth quarterings, designed by Matthew Dent. This design is still in use today.
The biggest change to date to the coin came in 1997, when the coin was reduced in both diameter and thickness, with older coins taken out of circulation.
Commemorative 50p coins
Over the years there have been dozens of commemorative designs, produced to mark landmark anniversaries and events, including:
- 1973 - Britain’s accession to the European Economic Community
- 1994 - Fiftieth anniversary of the D Day landings
- 2004 - Fiftieth anniversary of the four-minute mile by Roger Bannister
- 2009 - Kew Gardens – now a rarity, since only 210,000 were minted
- 2011-12 - London 2012 Olympics
- 2015 - 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain
- 2016 - Beatrix Potter, including Peter Rabbit