Earlier this year, The Royal Mint celebrated fifty years of the fifty pence by releasing a ‘special’ coin to mark the occasion. It was, of course, the bog standard Britannia - with a 2019 date on it. Now, some people would perhaps view this as being a little unimaginative…. whilst a few may even say it was downright naff. And they could have quite a strong argument.
Half a century is most certainly a jolly long time for the same type of coin to have been in general circulation (we will choose to ignore the fact that it was dramatically downsized in 1997….). So bringing out a special release to commemorate this is perfectly understandable. However, you cannot help but wonder - couldn’t they have come up with something a little more original? Perhaps a coin which had been specifically designed to encapsulate the excitement of this landmark event? Evidentially they saw this as being wholly unnecessary and simply dusted off their old Britannia dies…. and proceeded to bang a load out with this year’s date on them.
Okay, so the United Kingdom had barely recovered from this bitterly disappointing release when fresh news came along – once again, The Royal Mint would be releasing a ‘special’ coin to celebrate fifty years of the fifty pence.
Deju vu anyone?
Oh, but it gets better. Essentially this is exactly the same release…. except for two minute (very literally) details.
Firstly on this ‘new design’ there is ‘an exclusive never-before-seen mint mark’ resembling something akin to what many of us will remember from Spirograph. A rather strange geometric pattern which looks like the kind of thing you would expect to see emblazoned across the door of a flying saucer in a 1950s sci-fi flick…. except that it wouldn’t be large enough for that. In fact you can only ‘appreciate’ this strange insignia properly beneath the lens of a magnifying glass. And it is quite likely that you may miss it altogether if you hadn’t been alerted of its presence in advance.
Secondly, the outer points of the fifty pence have lines that purposely over-run. These each have a letter beside them - A to G. No-one seems to understand the relevance of any of this but apparently, according to online sources, this is ‘a minting first’. Hmmm, I guess that swings it then.
Personally I see this release as thoroughly disappointing and very uninspired. And I am confident that a coin designer out there could come up with a far more significant and memorable release than this. I am also genuinely confused as to why we needed a second Britannia 2019 50p in the first place. Or perhaps it is purely down to making as much money from a half century celebration as possible. As an aside, I am also kind of baffled as to why near-microscopic extra-terrestrial symbolism is needed on any of our UK currency. Unless of course, The Royal Mint are preparing us for ‘full discosure’….
For me, this has to be one of the most drab and uninteresting designs for quite a long time. ‘Revolution’? Really? The release of the original equilaterally-curved heptagonal coin in 1969 was revolutionary, but I see this as being about as revolutionary as a bicycle wheel with a bit of four by two jammed between the spokes. Come on….
But I merely collect coins, so who am I to pass judgement?
© Article and images (except where stated) copyright Mik Smith 2019