1971 50p Coin: Is It Rare Or Worth Anything?

If you’ve come across a 1971 50p coin you may be wondering if the coin is rare, and potentially how much it is worth to sell.

Depending on the condition of the coin you can expect to sell a 1971 50p coin for between £10 and £20 according to the latest values on eBay in 2022. If you have the original proof set which featured 5 other coins and a commemorative medal then it is worth up to £50.

If you want to learn more about the coin, including whether it entered circulation and also why it seems to be larger than the 50p coins found in circulation today then read the rest of this article.

Did The 1971 50p Coin Enter Circulation?

Contrary to popular belief, the 1971 50p coin did not enter circulation and was instead issued as a proof coin in a set.

This proof set featured the 1971 50p alongside a halfpenny, penny, 2 pence, 5 pence and 10 pence coin as well as a Royal Mint medal – full details of which can be found here.

Does This Mean The Coin Is Rare?

Since the coin was not released in general circulation, it means that the mintage is likely to be much smaller than an average 50p as it was released for collectors rather than daily use. And since mintage is the best way to judge how rare a coin is, this bodes well for the rarity of the coin.

The mintage for this set was 350,00, which is very small when compared to the mintage of some of the circulating 50p coins at the time such as the 1976 50p with a mintage of just under 44 million.

Specimens are likely to be in better condition as well since they are uncirculated and in proof condition which is yet another factor as to why the coin sells for between £10 and £20 on eBay.

1971 50p Design

Obverse

The obverse features the 1968 Arnold Machin RA portrait of the Queen wearing a Tiara dated 1971.

Reverse

1971 Reverse Design of the 50p

The reverse design of the 1971 50p features the figure of Britannia seated beside a lion holding a trident in her right hand with an olive branch in the left.

This obverse was used between 1969 to 1982, before the inscription NEW PENCE was replaced by FIFTY PENCE as the general population had adjusted to the decimal system.

Larger Style

Since the 1971 50p was released so long ago, it is an ‘old-style’ 50p which was larger in diameter and weight when compared to the new 50p coins.

Diameter (mm)Mass (g)Thickness (mm)
30.013.52.5
1971 50p Specification

This change occurred in 1997 when the old 50p coins were withdrawn from circulation and the new style 50p coins were introduced. This doesn’t have much impact on finding the coin in your change as it was uncirculated anyway, but it explains why it is larger than your average 50p that you would come across today.

Was The 1971 50p The First 50p Coin?

The 1971 50p is often assumed to be the first 50p coin ever as it is dated the same year as decimalisation, however, several coins were issued in the years leading up to 1971 as it was believed that it would make it easier for the public to adapt to the new system.

The very first decimal coins were the 5p and 10 coins which were released into circulation in April 1968, and the following year the first 50p coin entered circulation.

So, the 1971 proof 50p coins released in the sets were not the first 50p coins that were issued. The first 50p coin was the 1969 50p coin with a very large mintage of 188,400,000.

So, although the 1971 variant doesn’t have the bragging rights of being the first 50p coins, it is actually worth much more due to the lower mintage and proof finish.

What Was Replaced By The First 50p Coin In 1971?

When decimalisation occurred in 1971, the 50p coin had already been in circulation for a few years, but what did it replace?

The 10 shilling note was replaced by the 50p in 1971 and has co-existed alongside the 50p for a few years prior to the official decimalisation.

What Other Coins Were Issued In 1971?

In terms of coins that were circulating, there were a lot of other denominations issued during this year as the currency went decimal. You can find the mintages for these in the table below:

DenominationMintage
1p1,521,666,250
2p1,454,856,250
5p81,783,475
10p63,205,000
20pNot Issued Until 1982
£1Not Issued Until 1983
£2Not Issued Until 1986 (commemorative only)

It is quite easy to see why people mistake the 1971 50p for being extremely rare given its low mintage, and while it is definitely worth more than any other 1971 coin it is not considered to be extremely rare due to the fact it was issued in a proof set.

Not To Be Confused With The 50th Anniversary Of Decimal Day 50p

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Decimal Day the Royal Mint produced an uncirculated commemorative coin with the inscription 1972 DECIMAL DAY.

50 Year Anniversary of Decimal Day proof 50p reverse design
Commemorative Coin Released In 2021 – Credit

If you search for the 1971 50p coin you may be surprised to find articles relating to the 2021 commemorative coin shown above rather than the actual coin minted in the year 1971.

Final Thoughts

If you happen to come across a 1971 50p coin it’s likely that it is part of the proof set that was issued in 1971 for collectors. This set featured 5 other coins as well as a medal and is worth up to £50.

We hope you found this article interesting, and if you’re interested in coins of this era you may enjoy our more recent articles on the 1972 Silver Wedding Crown or the 1951 Festival of Britain Crown coins.