IT was the biggest change in British life for a thousand years. Half a century ago today, the UK scrapped LSD – pounds shillings and pence – and went decimal.
On Monday February 15, 1971, all prices were in a new-fangled currency, pounds and pence. The Sun newspaper cost just two and a half pence and a packet of 20 fags set you back 25p and pint of lager was 12pence.
All UK banks had closed for the previous four days so staff could prepare ahead of D-Day and for cheques in ‘old money’ to clear. More than 340,000 shop tills had been converted.
The Royal Mint set up a new factory to make 3.4billion new coins, including the halfpenny –which became known as the tiddler – one pence and the 2p.
Fifty pence, 10p and five pence coins were already in circulation. Today, despite the pandemic, nearly 30 billion coins are now in circulation.
Here are 50 of the rarest decimal coins out there that could make you money if you find them in your change.
Launched in 2009 to celebrate 250 years since London’s Kew Gardens opened just The Royal Mint re-issued the coins last year but only the older ones that go for the big money.
This 50p from 1997 is being offered for sale for around £300 in mint condition – but can you can find them for as little as a tenner.
The second rarest and most collectible 50p. One of the most talked about because its design was actually a diagram explaining the off-side rule. Launched in 2011, only 1,125,500 were made.
1,129,500 minted – £15, though some are on sale for £400.
The triathlon Olympic 50p features three figures running, cycling and swimming beneath the Olympic logo. 1,163,500 were made.
1,400,000 were made in 2017 in tribute to Beatrix Potter’s characters. Rare ones with a a half whisker are on sale for £3,000 but you can pick one up for £8.
Only 1,400,000 minted. On sale from £250 to £13.
50p Olympic Goalball – 1,615,500 made – worth £9[/caption]
Some of these 2006 two quid coins of Victorian engineer Brunel had a rare error at the mint. The miscast ones are on sale for around £500.
These rare coins with a thistle on the front are on sale for around £80.
£2 Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland – £78[/caption]
Features the Commonwealth Games and the flag of Northern Ireland. Just 485,500 in circulation.
The 2012 coin celebrates handover of the Olympic Games from Beijing to London Features the Olympic rings on a flag and the London 2012 logo. Just over 900,000 were minted.
£2 First World War, Navy – £10[/caption]
Launched in 2015 as part of a set of £2 coins that mark the centenary of WWI, 100 of these two pounds were given to HMS Belfast and coin hunters flocked to the ship to track them down.
Britannia was dropped from the 50p but came back on 650,000 £2 coins, sells for £80 – £8.
Just 650,500 were made to mark the 2002 Manchester games. Sell from £25.
771,750 of there were minted. Worth £15-£20.
845,000 were made to mark the handing over of the flag from Beijing to London and sell for around £20.
This coin made in 2008 was the first to feature the London 2012 Games logo – worth £5.
2011 Edinburgh £1[/caption]
Fewer than 800,000 of these rare £1 coins are still in circulation. Highest price we found was £45. Others sell for £5.
This capital cities coin sells for £5 – £36.
1986 Scotland Lion Rampant – a mint version of this Scottish quid fetched £24.99 on eBay.
Part of the same set, highest price on eBay was £10.50.
Launched in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In excellent condition can fetch £15 on eBay.
Uncirculated Belfast £1 coins go for nearly £20 while in good condition you can get £7.
In good condition, this coin of the royal arms of the queen, topped by the crown of St Edward, sell for £10.
This Northern Ireland coin sells for £5.99 in mint condition. Others go for £2.
Mint coins of Welsh version of the £1 will fetch around £7 on eBay.
The English version of the floral set will only sell for around £2.99.
20 pence pieces were introduced in 1982 and some are rare.
Bronze 20p – minted in 1987[/caption]
Looks like a dirty coin. A mix-up meant an unknown number of 20ps were made from the blanks for a 1p coin. One was sold for £700.
Undated 20p coin[/caption]
In 2008, Royal Mint accidentally made up to 200,000 20pence coins without the date on them. Worth up to £225.
Guernsey 20p coin[/caption]
Guernsey had its own designs on decimal currency from 1982 and brought out the 20p in 1987 which is worth £2.50.
This coin from 1992 with the map of Guernsey on the front sells for up to £90.
Just 31million 20pences were minted making them rare. Now on sale for £10.
Coins from that year are selling from £5 to £100 depending on condition.
Isle of Man 20p[/caption]
From 1997-1999 a 20p was made of a Subaru Impreza and Ford Cosworth in the Manx International Rally. Now worth around £5.
This 20p with the Queen’s head and the Keys of Gibraltar is worth around £3.
In 2008 almost 12million were made and these are now worth £3.50 upwards.
Although nearly 70million were produced these coins are being offered for sale for £3.99 up to £12.
In 2019, Royal Mint released 26 brand new 10p coins featuring the letters A-Z. A total of 2.6million were minted.
Due to a minting error one coin where you could hardly see the yeoman went for £16.77. A normal one sells for £2.50.
Some 2012 10pence pieces had a minting error which left a blob on the lion’s foot and sell for over £7.
A 10p coin with nothing on the tails side sold for £7.26. It will be worth checking your change to see if there were more.
Most read in Money
Fifty years after D-Day, the Royal Mint is celebrating with a new 50p commemorative coin range that brings the old to mind, see more information here.
Clare Maclennan, Divisional Director for Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint, says: “The Royal Mint made decimalisation happened 50 years ago – introducing the coins we use and collect today.
“We’re celebrating with a special ‘Decimal Day’ 50p featuring ‘old money’ as well launching ‘memory boxes’ for care homes – helping people with dementia recall their memories of ‘the changeover’”
WHEN Britain switched to decimal currency 50 years ago today shoppers – who spent an average £2.31 a week on food – feared that unscrupulous traders would use it as an excuse to put up prices.
Here are the eye-wateringly low prices we paid for essentials on Decimal Day in 1971:
- Mars Bar 4p
- Golden Wonder crisps 3p
- Pint of lager 12p
- Pint of Whitbread beer 16p
- Bottle of whisky £2.69
- Large white loaf 10p
- Pint of milk 6p
- Can of Coke 5 1/2p
- 1/2lb butter 11 1/2p
- 8oz Nescafe coffee 47 1/2p
- 1 doz large eggs 25p
- 20 cigarettes 25p
- Gallon of petrol 34p
- Cinema ticket 90p
- TV licence £ 11.10
- 24” black & white TV£ 69.00
- Ford Escort £799
- Average house £5,578
- Council rent, weekly £5
- Average weekly wage £30.98
- Weekly State pension £ 6.00
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