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Why the 50p coin that apparently sold for £63,000 isn’t actually that rare or valuable

It’s not hard to see why the idea that some coins may be particularly rare or valuable captures the imagination – who wouldn’t want to discover a windfall crammed down the back of their sofa?

The latest story to gather some momentum, and presumably get people frantically rummaging through its purses, regards a 50p coin released to commemorate the Battle of Hastings of 1066.

According to various reports, including The Mirror, The Sun and BBC’s Newsround, one of the coins sold for £63,000 on eBay earlier this month.

It was supposdely listed with under the provisio that it was “very rare” with a starting price of £1,500, attracting 41 bids over the course of a week before the auction closed.

(Photo: Royal Mint)

Is the Battle of Hastings 50p coin actually rare?

The Battle of Hastings 50p was launched in 2016 to commemorate the 950th anniversary of one of the most famous dates in English history.

At the time, the Royal Mint said that five million of the commemorative coins would be released into circulation, featuring the famous fate of King Harold as told by the Bayeaux Tapestry.

John Bergdahl, the sculptor who designed the coin, said: “The Bayeux Tapestry formed the inspiration for my design, as it is the only real visual record of the battle.

“The figure I have used in the composition is based on images thought to be King Harold, with the famous arrow to the eye.”

According to reports, despite its reputed price tag, the coin isn’t actually particularly rare, with as many as 6.7 million now in circulation.

Indeed, in the most recent “50p Scarcity Index” produced by the rare coins website Change Checker the Battle of Hastings was given a score of 2, with the highest value coin, the Key Gardens 50p, rated at 100.

Only 210,000 versions of that coin were minted in 2009, the commemorate the landmarks’ 250th birthday – 6.5 million fewer than the Battle of Hastings 50p.

So, in the general scheme of rare 50p coins, the Battle of Hastings special edition isn’t particularly rare at all.

The famous Bayeaux tapestry was the inspiration for the Battle of Hastings 50p coin (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Why would it sell for so much then?

Speaking to The Mirror, Alexandra Fiddons from Change Checker wasn’t able to explain exactly why the coin would sell for such a purportedly high fee, but said that sometimes “random coins” do reach surprising prices.

She said it was possible “that demand for 50ps has gone up because we’re seeing less change used right now because of coronavirus,” adding that “ones with historical anniversaries tend to do better amongst collectors”.

Despite this, Ms Fiddons pointed out that other versions of the Battle of Hastings 50p were selling for just £2 on eBay, concluding: “We often have random coins that we don’t expect to take off that much and sometimes they just skyrocket. That could be the explanation here.”

Of course, this hasn’t stopped a glut of would-be sellers flooding eBay with Battle of Hastings coins, with multiple listings currently on offer between £50,000 and £60,000 (at least, in the majority of cases, delivery is free).

None of them have attracted a bid thus far.

After multiple delays the Brexit 50p coin was finally released earlier this year (Photo: Getty Images)

Which 50p coins really are rare?

According to the Royal Mint’s mintage figures, with its aforementioned circulation of 210,000 the Kew Gardens is the rarest 50p coin – and the majority are now thought to be in the hands of collectors.

Rivalling it for top spot in the Change Checker index are a series of coins released in 2011 to commemorate the following year’s London Olympics.

The collection of 30 coins all commerate different sports, with their varying circulation sizes reflected in their desirability among collectors. The rarest are the football, judo and triathlon coins, which all have a mintage of between 1,100,000 and 1,200,000.

Also popular are the Beatrix Potter commemorative designs, which struck a chord with their whimsical portrayals of some of the nation’s favourite children’s literature characters.

Most of the initial designs circulated in 2016 have a comparatively high circulation, with only the Jemima Puddle-Duck coin considered as rare, editions released in 2018 were much more collectable.

The 2018 Peter Rabbit and Flopsy Bunny 50ps had a mintage of 1,400,000, with 1,700,000 of the Mrs Tittlemouse coins in circulation, leading to them being more prized by collectors.

While these coins can all fetch sums comfortably above their 50p value, often it is “error coins” – versions which found their way into circulation after being minted with mistakes – which are particularly valued by collectors.

The Royal Mint also releases an extensive array of commemorative uncirculated coins, usually in limited editions, with recent examples honouring the rock band Queen, the explorer Captain Cook, the romantic poet William Wordsworth and, to much fanfare and persistent delays, Brexit.

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Written by Angle News

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