News & Blog

Year of the Pig

Posted on Fri, 18 January 2019 by Karen Needs - Coin News

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What makes a complete collection? AS we go to press we learn that Britannia is coming back! She will appear again on the 50p but only for a select few: those who visit the Royal Mint Experience in Llantrisant, South Wales and who “strike their own coin”. Rather interestingly the Royal Mint Experience’s Twitter feed (@ RoyalMintExp) states that as of January 1, 2019 you can strike “50 new pence” and the picture accompanying the Tweet does indeed show a Britannia 50p with the words NEW PENCE (as opposed to the denomination). If this is actually the coin which visitors can strike it will be very interesting indeed as, of course, the Mint dropped “NEW” from our coinage back in 1982 (apart from the 2p mule). There is no indication whether this new coin will be the old size or new size variety but one assumes that it will be dated 2019 and thus will be the new size. Even if the Twitter feed is wrong (or I’ve read it incorrectly) and a standard “FIFTY PENCE” heptagon will be struck, it will still be a rarity: a Britannia 50p dated some 11 years after Britannia was dropped from our 50 pences with the introduction of the Matthew Dent“Shield” redesign. Definitely one for new issue collectors to look out for. Or is it? The announcement of this new variety comes hot on the heels of an email from one of our readers who pointed out that the Royal Mint is planning to reissue some of the rarer 50p coins in a special proof set, much as they did back in 2009 when precious and base metal versions of certain 50p coins were issued together to celebrate 40 years of the iconic coin. The reader asked whether the mintages of those coins counted towards the overall mintages as listed in our YEARBOOK and was particularly interested in the status of the 2009 Kew Gardens coins as that appeared in the set but is also, famously, a low mintage, and thus a relatively rare coin. The answer to that query was a simple one—as these coins were proofs they would not count towards the mintage figures which are always based on those coins struck for circulation, but the reader’s next query wasn’t so easy to answer —and that was whether he, as a type date run collector, needed these reissued “special” coins to complete his collection. He, like so many of us, wants a “complete” collection, so should such a thing include these coins? At first glance one would think yes, if you are trying to collect “one of everything” in the 50p series then surely you have to include these reissued coins too, but is that really the case? These were specially minted issues, are proofs for the collector market and were not designed to circulate; therefore can they legitimately be considered part of the 50p series? Take, for example, the “New Pence” Britannia 50p, it differs slightly in design from the “Fifty pence” variety (look at the position of the trident she’s holding) and that design has been faithfully recreated in the 2009 50p set— but at a smaller size! In other words a coin that never actually existed has been struck as a commemorative, does it therefore count as part of the series at all? The other coins in the set, and one assumes the forthcoming 2019 set, are also all dated with the year of minting, not the year they were first struck, making them all very different from their circulating counterparts. So do they really belong to the series? Or not? You could, I suspect, justify their inclusion in your collection quite happily. After all, if you want one of everything then buy one of everything, but I also believe you could justify NOT including them on the basis that they are “special issues” and don’t really belong amongst BU coins as they are struck to a different specification. After all, most collectors would accept that were a 50p not needed one year and only gold or silver versions were issued, then they would not be part of the standard series and thus a collection missing them would not be incomplete. But then you come to this new Royal Mint Experience coin and that rather throws a spanner in the works. This new coin (whether it features “New” or “Fifty”) will be struck in cupro-nickel to Brilliant Uncirculated specifications, it is not a proof coin and whilst yes, it is “for the collector market”, it isn’t the same as the proof coins that appear in the sets, it’s a different animal altogether and one I suspect that will polarise the new issue collectors. Is your collection complete if you don’t have this coin? The answer to that is, of course, very personal. Only you as a collector will know what you’re happy with. If you are content with just those coins that circulate and believe that they and they alone make up the “series”, then you won’t worry about hot-footing it to Llantrisant to strike this new one, but I imagine many of you won’t feel like that and will find yourselves eager to get to Wales as soon as possible. This being the case it’s just as well they’ve got rid of the tolls on the bridges isn’t it!?