Rare 50p pieces are being sold online for more than £200 each, according to a new list which reveals the most scarce commemorative designs.
A limited 2009 edition, minted to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, has now become so prized by collectors they are offering over 400 times its value for a single specimen.
It tops a new leaderboard of specially commissioned 50p coins, demand for which has caused their value to rocket to several times the face value.
If we see a drop of a particular coin in the surveys we know it’s become popular
Kevin Clancy, Royal Mint Museum
Behind the Kew Gardens edition, which features a pagoda encircled by vines, designed by Royal Academy President Christopher Le Brun, the next most sought-after 50p is one of a series released ahead of the London Olympics explaining the offside rule in football.
But, unlike the 2011 “Sporting Series”, of which more than 53 million coins were minted to publicise the games, just 210,000 Kew Gardens coins ever entered circulation.
“It’s an attractive design, but it wasn’t intended to make it the most valuable, it just turned out that way,” said Kevin Clancy, Director of the Royal Mint Museum.
“I think the Market finds its own way.”
He explained that the relatively small number of Kew Gardens coins means they amount to around just 0.02 per cent of roughly 50 billion 50p pieces in circulation.
After the offside rule edition, triathlon, judo and wrestling coins from the Olympic series are the third, fourth, and fifth rarest 50p coins, according to Change Checker, which developed the “scarcity index”.
Behind that, two 2016 coins featuring Beatrix Potter characters, one Jemima Puddleduck and the other Squirrel Nutkin, are the next hardest to come by.
These coins are normally sold in bags of 20 on eBay for around £35, equating to £1.75 per coin.
Other rare 50p coins include the Suffragettes and Battle of Hastings designs, which will fetch around £10 and £5, respectively.
Mr Clancy said a coin of limited mintage usually means that it will be popular with collectors and fetch a high price, but that some editions become unexpected success stories.
Although the 2005 design to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary had a mintage of more than 17,600,000, it has nevertheless been hoarded by collectors.
The historian said the Royal Mint identifies which coins are being collected by sitting an employee in a room for several days and making him sift through a sample of 15,000 50p pieces from across the country.
If the proportion of a certain edition found in the sample is less than expected, officials know it is being kept out of circulation.
“It’s a question of mintage,” he said.
“We know some get lost or taken abroad, but if we see a drop of a particular coin in the surveys we know it’s become popular.”
Outside sporting designs from the 2011 series, coins commemorating the Battle of Hastings, as well as the Battle of Britain and the composer Benjamin Britten make the Change Checker scarcity list.
Number 33 on the list of 54 features a coin minted in 1973 celebrating Britain’s accession to the European Economic Community, of which nearly 90,000 were minted.
The design features nine hands symbolising the then nine members of the Community, clasping one another “in a mutual gesture of trust, assistance and friendship”, according to the Royal Mint.