Millions of 50p coins bearing the image of King Charles III will enter circulation from Thursday via post offices across the country. They are the first mass-produced coins carrying the new King’s image, and will be given out in change to customers.
An estimated 4.9 million of the new coins are being distributed to post offices – about half of the total number earmarked for circulation. Coins carrying the image of the late Queen will still be accepted in shops.
“Today marks a new era for UK coinage, with the effigy of King Charles III appearing on 50ps in circulation,” said Rebecca Morgan, director of collector services at The Royal Mint.
“We anticipate a new generation of coin collectors emerging, with people keeping a close eye on their change to try and spot a new 50p that bears the portrait of our new King.”
The coin has been struck at The Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, using an image of the King produced over the course of months by sculptor Martin Jennings.
He used pictures of King Charles on his 70th birthday to create a likeness of the monarch, in what is the smallest work he has ever had to produce. He described its production and distribution as a “quite remarkable experience”.
The first batch of coins will be given in change to customers buying something in post offices – something its chief executive Nick Read describes as a “tremendous honour”.
“December is our busiest time of the year so the coin will be entering our network in a phased manner,” he said. “If you don’t receive the new 50p in your change on your first visit to a post office you may well get it in your change in a subsequent visit, so keep a look out for it.”
More coins will be released in line with demand, replacing damaged or worn 50p coins carrying the portrait of Queen Elizabeth. There are approximately 27 billion coins circulating in the UK bearing the image of the late Queen and these can still be used to pay for things. Before decimalisation, it was common for people to carry coins featuring different monarchs in their pockets.
Cash use has become far less frequent when compared to debit cards, a trend driven by the emergence of contactless cards and then accelerated by the Covid pandemic. The buying power of these coins has also been diluted by rising prices.
However, there is still keen interest from consumers and collectors about the images used on coins and banknotes.
The reverse side of the new 50p coin is a copy of the design used on the 1953 Crown struck to commemorate the Queen’s coronation. It includes the four quarters of the Royal Arms depicted within a shield. In between each shield is an emblem of the home nations: a rose, a thistle, a shamrock and a leek.
The coins follow centuries of tradition with the monarch now facing left – the opposite way to his predecessor. Profiles are alternated between left and right for successive monarchs. As with previous British kings, and unlike the Queen, he wears no crown. Other denominations will be manufactured, carrying the King’s image, in line with demand.
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