Are 1997 50p coins really worth thousands of pounds?
We get a lot of calls about these old Fifty Pence pieces from customers. A quick Google search will show 1997 50ps for sale on eBay for £10,000 or more as well as dozens of news articles about these supposedly scarce coins.
So are 1997 Britannia 50ps actually rare? And what could you sell a 1997 50p for in 2023?
Pre-1997 Fifty Pence Coins
The first seven-sided Fifty Pence coins were issued by The Royal Mint in 1969 as the UK's first decimal coins. The original specifications included a diameter of 30 millimetres and a weight of 13.5 grams.
That is significantly larger and heavier than The Royal Mint's current Fifty Pences which measure 27.3 millimetres in diameter with a weight of exactly 8.00 grams.
The specification was changed for 1997 with the older, larger coins removed from circulation. Today, you are very unlikely to come across an old 50p in your change and if you did you would not be able to spend it in a shop. Since they can be hard to find, these pre-97 50ps are sought after by change collectors.
|Pre-1997 Fifty Pence
|1997-Present Fifty Pence
1997 Circulated UK Fifty Pence Designs
The obverse or 'heads' side of 50ps dated 1997 shows Raphael Maklouf's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. This was the third profile of Her Majesty used on UK coins and can be seen on currency dated 1985 to 1997. The portrait would be updated in the following year to a design by British sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley. The legend reads 'ELIZABETH II D · G · REG · F · D · 1997'.
The fact that 1997 was the last year that Maklouf's portrait was used has likely added to the appeal of these coins, given that they are the only small-size Fifty Pences to feature this image of The Queen.
The reverse or 'tails' design is the work of Christopher Ironside. His engraving shows the legendary Britannia, the female personification of the British Isles, with the English lion by her side. Armed with her trident and a Union jack shield, Britannia has been a feature of British coinage for centuries. Ironside's seated Britannia was originally modelled by his wife with the composition inspired by Victorian Pennies and Halfpennies. The words 'FIFTY PENCE' appear at the top of the coin with '50' below the figure.
The two designs used on 1997 50ps are called 'definitive designs' as they are used across multiple years. They differ from 'commemorative designs' which are generally struck for one year only in limited numbers.
Both sides of a circulated 1997 50p with Raphael Maklouf's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (left), paired with Christopher Ironside's much-admired definitive Britannia design.
How Many 50ps Were Minted In 1997?
As 1997 was the year that the new, smaller 50p coin was introduced a large number were minted to replace the larger coins which were to be withdrawn.
In fact, the 1997 50p is the most common 50p ever produced by The Royal Mint.
More than four and a half million of these coins were struck for circulation with a range of collector's coins produced to celebrate this change to UK currency.
|1997 Britannia 50p Circulated
|1997 Britannia 50p Brilliant Uncirculated
|1997 Britannia 50p Proof*
|100,000 or more
|1997 Britannia 50p Silver Proof
|1997 Britannia 50p Piedfort Silver Proof
* Small proof 1997 Britannia 50ps can be found in 1997 UK Proof Sets
No 50ps intended for circulation were struck to the old, larger specification in 1997. However, there were brilliant uncirculated and proof coins produced to the old larger specification for collectors.
These can be seen in collectors sets like the 1997 UK Proof Set which includes an old-spec 50p and a new-design one. Silver-proof sets were also issued with both designs.
This sterling silver proof 1997 collector's 50p set contains a small 50p and a large 50p, both dated 1997.
Are 1997 Britannia 50ps legal tender? Yes, these coins are legal tender but old-style larger 50ps minted before this date have been demonetised and withdrawn from circulation in the UK.
Fake Coin News On eBay
Recently, the national news media has picked up on several 1997 50ps listed on eBay for extraordinary prices.
When we had a look in late December 2023, the highest price we could find was close to £10,000. Earlier this year, some websites were reporting 1997 coins listed for even more.
This 'rare' 1997 Britannia 50p was on sale for just under £10,000 in December 2023.
The reality is that a seller can put whatever price they want on their eBay listing. No knowledgeable coin collector is going to pay £10,000 for a coin of this kind but if they can catch an inexperienced buyer with deep pockets then the seller has made a mint.
Even if they fail to sell, the presence of eBay listings like this may attract newspaper reporters who like to write uncritical articles on scarce coins and rare collectables. In turn, this press attention can result in increased interest in an otherwise common coin. Sellers can capitalise on this by offering slightly cheaper though still overpriced products which the unwitting buyer may think represents a good investment.
This £300 1997 50p looks quite affordable when compared to the £10,000 listing but you can still get this coin for much, much cheaper.
You can see the effect of press articles on Google search trends over the last few years. More people search for '1997 50p' when news websites post sensational articles. The big spike in late 2018 probably corresponds to a Daily Express article published on the topic in November. Another spike in summer 2023 relates to a Birmingham Live article which was uploaded in June.
Google searches for '1997 50p' soar when astronomical eBay prices are covered by online newspapers.
What Are 1997 50ps Actually Worth?
What something is worth is entirely dependent on what people are prepared to pay.
eBay sold lists can give us an idea of the market value of a coin, i.e. what most people are actually spending on 1997 50ps. You can access this information by filtering for 'sold items'.
A look at recent sales shows circulated 1997 50ps selling for between £2.00 and £3.00 over the last few months, some including postage, others not. The smaller-size 1997 coins, listed as 'uncirculated' or 'BU', sell for £10.00 to £15.00 on average.
So you can make a bit more than face value by selling online to collectors though, of course, you would have to factor in post and packing costs as well as eBay fees to turn a profit here.
We pay face value for 1997 50ps and most coin dealers or antique centres will offer something similar. This is because these are very common coins, despite what the media may suggest.
Sell UK Fifty Pence Coins Online
We do pay more than face value for a range of rare UK-circulated coins including the 2009 Kew Gardens 50p and the 2002 Northern Ireland £2. If you are looking to sell your Royal Mint coins then we recommend attending a valuation day with Christopher Collects (you may know him from YouTube!). Check our valuation day calendar for upcoming events or subscribe to our newsletter for more information. We also operate a postal service: find out more on our Sell Your Coins page.
Frequently Asked Questions
1997 Britannia 50ps are one of the most common coins ever struck for circulation in the UK. They are worth around 50p but sellers on eBay may list them for tens of thousands of Pounds.
Some eBay sellers may try to sell 1997 Britannia 50ps for thousands of Pounds but the reality is that these very common UK coins are worth around their face value: Fifty Pence.
1997 UK Fifty Pence coins are not rare. In fact, they are the most numerous 50p ever struck by The Royal Mint with an enormous 456,364,100 produced for circulation.
1997 50ps are legal tender but Fifty Pence coins made before this date have been demonetised and cannot be spent in shops. You can recognise these old UK coins by their larger size.
The rarest UK Fifty Pence coin still in circulation is the famous Kew Gardens 50p with only 210,000 produced by The Royal Mint. These 2009 coins are sought-after by collectors.
For changel collectors most valuable old, larger 50p is the 1992-1993 Single Market 50p with a mintage of 109,000, much lower than the famous 2009 Kew Gardens 50p.
Several Fifty Pence coins are worth more than their face value. This includes the 1992-1993 Single Market 50p, the 2009 Kew Gardens 50p and the 2011 Olympics Football 50p.