It’s regarded by many as the Holy Grail of change collecting, and back in 2008, the undated 20p saga encouraged an entire country to start carefully checking their coins. In fact plenty of collectors are still doing just that in the hope of finding one.
If you’re not familiar with the story of the undated 20p, this is it:
In 2008, the reverse of each denomination from 1p to £1 was redesigned by Matthew Dent to feature a different part of the Royal Arms Shield. The 20p had previously included the date on the reverse, but with the entire face of the coin now devoted to the new design, the Royal Mint produced a new die with the date on the obverse (Queen’s head) side.
However, when the new Royal Shield 20p coins were struck for circulation, the old die was accidentally used, meaning a batch was issued with no date on either side of the coin.
Coins with mismatched sides like these are known in the collecting world as ‘mules’ – the name deriving from the hybrid offspring of a horse and a donkey. Mule coins are always highly coveted, but they rarely receive the kind of mainstream media attention afforded to the undated 20p.
The first for 300 years
The undated 20p became the first coin in over 300 years to enter circulation without a date, and when the story broke in the press, it caused a frenzy not just in the collecting world but amongst the general public who realised they stood just as good a chance as anyone of pulling one out of their change.
Estimates have varied over the years but The Royal Mint confirmed in a statement that no more than 250,000 coins made it into circulation.
Stories from numerous media outlets fuelled rumours about the coin’s value. Estimates quickly spiralled out of control, and some began trading hands online for thousands of pounds.
Of course, a coin with such a high mintage could never really be worth that sort of figure, and in recent years the average selling price for an undated 20p has levelled off. Nowadays they normally sell for around the £50 mark which I’m sure you’ll agree is still not a bad return for a 20p coin!
In terms of rarity, you are approximately twice as likely to find an undated 20p as you are the famous Kew Gardens 50p. However, ordinarily an undated 20p will sell for more. But why?
The reason quite simply is that everyone loves a good story.
The fact that the coin only exists by way of a freak accident really adds to its appeal, and makes it a collector’s item in every sense of the term. So remember to have a good look at your 20p next time you’ve got one in your hand. A flip of your coin could be worth a lot more than you thought.
Last week a 50p coin that many thousands of people have found in their daily pocket change started to be sold on e-Bay for prices upward of £100.00. Or to put it another way, 200 times its actual value!
It was all because the Royal Mint announced that the Kew Gardens 50p coins is the UK’s most scarce circulation coin, with just 210,000 pieces ever been placed into circulation. The result was a media storm and the inevitable overnight ramping of prices.
Half the circulation of the Kew Gardens 50p
But what few people realise is that there is an even rarer UK 50p piece that was issued in half the number of the Kew Gardens coin – just 109,000 coins.
The coin was issued in 1992 to mark the EC Single Market and the UK presidency of the Council of Ministers – perhaps not the most popular of topics, which maybe was the reason so very few were pushed out into circulation. But of course, its lack of popularity at the time, is the very thing that now makes it Britain’s rarest 50p coin.
Sadly, however hard you search, unlike the Kew Gardens 50p, you will not find this one in your change. That’s because it is one of the old-sized 50p coins that were demonetised in 1998.
The coin itself was designed by Mary Milner Dickens and pictures the UK’s place at the head of the Council of Ministers’ conference table. The stars represent each of the nations’ capital cities placed in their relative geographical position.
But it won’t be the coin’s clever design that will guarantee its numismatic interest for years to come. It is its status as the UK’s most rare circulation 50p is what will intrigue collectors and have them searching and saving up in years to come.