It's reasonably well known that the UK Kew Gardens 50p is one of the rarest coins that you can find in your change, and they command a collector's price which is hundreds of times higher than the coin's face value. But did you know there are lots of coins that are even rarer that you should be looking out for?
The Rarest UK Coins
The Kew Gardens 50p regularly trades for around £200 on coin collector exchanges, such is the demand for this rare circulating piece. However, we can find coins which have far low mintage figures, which initially suggests they could be even scarcer. Here are our picks of coins rarer than a Kew Gardens 50p.
1992 1993 EU Presidency 50p Coin
We start off with another 50p coin: the EEC Presidency 50p coin, designed by Mary Milner Dickens. It depicts a conference table with the geographic location of the capital cities of the participating countries of the European Council of Ministers. This coin was minted in 1992 and 1993 to mark the United Kingdom's presidency of the organisation. They were put into circulation with a mintage (ie. the amount of them struck by The Royal Mint) totalling just 109,000. That's almost half the amount of the Kew Gardens 50p, which had a mintage of 210,000.
You're very unlikely to find these in your change because in 1997 the UK Fifty Pence coin was resized, which meant all coins issued beforehand were withdrawn. The EU/EEC 50p was a victim of this withdrawal unfortunately, but it does mean ordinary circulation pieces could be even more difficult to find given a sizeable portion of them could have been melted down. We do sometimes wonder if the present day coin collecting mania would have included this coin if it were still in circulation.
A-Z 10p UK Coins
Something you will find in your change, if you are lucky, is one of the 26 A-Z 10p coins. It's a fantastic series of coins to collect, with one design for each letter of the alphabet each depicting something quintessentially British.
They were first minted in 2018 with only 220,000 of each having been produced. That's just a smidge above the Kew Gardens 50p but they were also struck in 2019 with far reduced numbers being minted.
They still have the same images on the reverse or tails side of the coin but the letters A through P, S, through V and X saw only 84,000 minted. The letter Q had only 83,000 struck. The letter R totalled just 64,000 but the letters W, Y, and Z are the rarest with only 63,000 being circulated.
If you combine the mintage figures overall, you may be more likely to find one of the series but the chances of finding a 2019 C for instance is much reduced, with a significantly lower mintage than the Kew Gardens 50 pence.
2011 Tosha Cat Two Pound Coin Isle of Man
If we cast our net a bit further and look at Manx coinage, we have the Tosha Cat Two Pound coin. The coin was minted in 2011 to celebrate the 4th Commonwealth Youth Games which was held on the island. It saw 811 athletes from 64 different nations competing and the cat featured on the coin as the mascot of the games.
The actual mintage figure of this popular coin is unknown. But the Isle of Man is a small place, with much less demand for coins than the UK, so fewer circulating coins are needed to be struck each year, explaining the coin's rarity. As a result of this it has become hugely sought after and commands a rather hefty price tag, so make sure to check your change if you're visiting the Isle of Man!
2008 The Snowman 50p Isle of Man
We will stay with Manx coinage for this next coin: the 2008 James and The Snowman Christmas 50p. The Isle of Man has long been issuing special Christmas 50ps and they are a really popular set to collect with some becoming extraordinarily valuable. It is technically a re-issue of a design used in 2003, which is also considered rare, but the 2008 edition commands a higher collector's price.
The coin was minted in the normal finish and with a special colour design. Officially, the combined mintage of both versions is only 30,000, which illustrates the point that the Isle of Man doesn't need all that many circulating coins.
1983 2 Pence New Pence Error Coin
There are also intriguing errors too. For instance, consider the BU 1983 UK coin set. It might seem like a fairly ordinary brilliant uncirculated coin set but examine one coin in particular. When the UK went decimal all the coins were titled 'New Pence' or 'New Penny' to the top of the design to differentiate the decimal editions from the pre-decimal coins. However, from 1982 the 'New' tag was dropped so each denomination read as one penny, two pence, five pence and so on.
By 1983 all the coins therefore should read as their individual denomination. But have a look at the Two Pence coin in this set. It says 'New Pence'. How did this happen? This is an example of a 'mule error'. Two dies are used to strike a coin: one for the obverse (heads) side and the other for the reverse (tails) side. A mule coin is created when the wrong die was used to strike one half of the coin. So in this case, the old 'New Pence' reverse die was used to strike these 1983 Two Pence coins. This mistake is what caused the undated 20p coin and the Lord Kitchener mule £2 coin too.
Rare Proof Coins
If we go a bit broader again, then how about commemorative proof coins? Whether a proof £2, £5 or 50 pence, these are created by The Royal Mint for collectors to purchase and there are set issue limits, a maximum that can be minted. These are often in the thousands, occasionally tens of thousands, meaning much fewer of these are minted in comparison to the circulated Kew Gardens 50p.
Coins Not Intended For Circulation
Similar are coins that are officially 'Not Intended For Circulation' (NIFC). For instance, since 2016 there have been no new £2 coins minted and put into our change. However, there has been years of new commemorative £2 coins minted for collectors to purchase. These coins are NIFC, so if you find one in your change it means that someone has bought or been gifted a set of coins, broken it out of that collector's pack and spent it. The chance of finding such a coin in this fashion is incredibly slim.
There are also NIFC variants of coins. For example, in 2015 when Queen Elizabeth II's portrait was changed in the annual coin sets her fourth coinage portrait was still used rather than the new fifth portrait which was put into circulation. Or the 2007 Abolition of the Slave Trade £2 coin which has subtle design changes in the collector's version in comparison to the one that was put into circulation.
5kg Commemorative Coins
We have seen some rather impressive large coins at The Britannia Coin Company, which are often one of a kind. Take the 5kg gold proof Queen Elizabeth II platinum jubilee coin in particular. It's unbelievable to see in the palms of your hands! Only 2 of these impressive large gold coins were made and it's rather larger than a 50p which you could find in your change.
Although it has a legal tender value of £5,000, the gold content in the coin gives it a melt value of over £250,000 at current market prices. It's safe to say that nobody in their right mind would offer to spend one of these in an everyday money transaction, though it would certainly be entertaining to see the reaction of the other party if such an attempt was made.
Rare Olympics 50p Coins
The Olympic 50 Pences are really popular circulating coins to collect but those that went into circulation have a mintage figure quite in excess of the Kew Gardens 50p. However, there are two very special exceptions to this rule.
We start with the Olympic Athletics 50p. Each design was selected from an open public competition and this was one chosen from viewers of the BBC children's TV program, Blue Peter. You can find this design in your change and if you do, make sure to turn it over to the obverse (heads) side. This coin was not minted in 2011 as with the rest of the collection. There were 100,000 of these coins struck with the 2009 date, but they didn't actually sell very well and about 80,000 were subsequently destroyed leaving approximately 20,000 behind.
Even rarer is the Olympic Aquatics 50p, but the design is slightly different from the one that went into circulation. To tell the difference you need to carefully look at the lines over the face of the swimmer. In the original design the lines continue over the face of the athlete but this was changed last minute to improve the look of the coin. But some had already been struck with the unaltered die, placed in the presentation card and were sold. Speculation among collectors as to how many of these coins exists gives a number in the 100s.
There are also many other well known rare old UK coins whether it is the 1933 Penny (which is technically a pattern coin ie. a prototype) or the timeless and beautiful Victoria Gothic Crown. Over the centuries that we have been minting coins there are plenty of historic pieces of numismatic history that are far rarer and more valuable than the Kew Gardens 50p.
Rare World Coins
If you look elsewhere in the world, many countries have smaller number of circulating coins being produced, which could be attributed to a lack of demand for coinage or sufficient stocks of coins already existing.
All you have to do is look at the mintage figures of some circulating coins in the United States to realise that the amount of coins produced in the United Kingdom is miniscule in comparison. So small nations like the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands won't need millions of coins a year to be produced to meet local needs.
Sell Rare Coins UK
We at The Britannia Coin Company would love to hear from you if you think you've come across a rare coin in your change, but the overwhelming odds are it's not as rare or valuable as you think it might be. We don't mean to disappoint, however it's important to manage expectations. But if you do happen to come across some of the coins mentioned above, then we offer fair and very competitive prices. Have a look at our Sell Your Coins page for more details or you can visit our showroom during working hours in Royal Wootton Bassett.