Following our recent revelation about the rarest UK coin in current circulation – the Kew Gardens 50p – we’ve seen lots of comments about another, even rarer 50p. People have been talking about the 1992-3 50p that marked the UK’s Presidency of the Council of Ministers and completion of the Single European Market. And they are not wrong, as only 109,000 of that coin were minted. But don’t get too excited, because you’re never going to find it in your change these days. It was one of the larger, heavier 50p coins that, following a review of the UK currency in 1994, was withdrawn from circulation in 1997.
And that’s where the misunderstanding lies. We revealed that the Kew Gardens 50p is the rarest design you’ll find on a coin in current circulation, which it is! There are many other coins that aren’t in circulation with smaller mintages that can be considered ‘rarer’. In fact most commemorative uncirculated coins have a mintage of less than 100,000, much lower than the 210,000 Kew Gardens 50p coins in circulation, and lower than the 109,000 Single Market 50p coins.
The information about the Kew Gardens 50p was offered to support the ‘Great British Coin Hunt’, and our hugely popular collector folders. We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm among coin fans to get involved in the ‘Hunt’ and fill their new folders up as quickly as possible. Only coins that can be found in current circulation feature in the folders, which is why the Single Market 50p does not appear. The ‘Great British Coin Hunt’ is a fun activity for all the family and a chance to build a coin collection from the coins we use every day, making it easy to get started and be a part of the hunt. When you’re hunting to fill the four albums – 50p, Sports Edition 50p, £1 and £2 – you’ll find some are harder to come by than others, so the question was asked, what’s the rarest coin design in current circulation? The answer: The Kew Gardens 50p.
When we look at the bigger picture, the rarest coin design to be released into circulation post-decimalisation is the Single Market 50p, with only 109,000 minted. Unfortunately the hunt for that coin is over, as, with its withdrawal from circulation, most of them have already been squirreled away and are sitting in piggy banks, jam jars or even collections. Due to that, you’ll certainly find them for sale on online auction sites or being swapped and traded between coin collectors. However these are probably not the rarest coins to ever be released into circulation post-decimalisation. There have been other coins, not unique designs but variations, such as; the undated 20p, the 1983 ‘New Pence’ two pence coin and the Aquatics 50p variation that are more likely recipients of the title. The exact amount released into circulation for each of these cannot be accurately provided but it is believed they are rarer than both the Single Market and Kew Gardens 50p designs.
If you’re interested in ever rarer coins, our very own Royal Mint Museum has over 80,000 coins from all eras, including some very rare pieces indeed. Some of the rarer pieces in the vast collection include trial pieces and material prepared for the coinage of Edward VIII that was never issued due to the Abdication, and the Vigo Bay five-guinea piece issued during the reign of Queen Anne.
The ‘Great British Coin Hunt’ folders are made to hold the coins that people can find in their change today, some of which are definitely more elusive than others. We know it’s not going to be easy collecting them all, but that’s the thrill of coin hunting!