Team GB 50p: can you make a mint from collecting rare coins?

The Royal Mint has introduced a new commemorative 50p coin for the Japan Olympics, but what other rare coins are out there, and could you make money on them?

The Royal Mint has released a new 50p collectors coin to celebrate Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The coin, which sold for £20 on The Royal Mint’s website, proved to be an immediate hit with collectors and is now out of stock, never to enter general circulation again.

At the time of writing, the coin, in its original packaging, was listed for over £35 – just two weeks after first being minted. However, this is far from the only novelty coin of value. If you find what you think is a rare 50p coin – or indeed other denominations, or even vintage money – what should you do with it?

The important thing to remember with rare coins is it is only ever worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Stories routinely pop up in the tabloids about coins selling for hundreds of pounds above face value – but this is quite rare.

As a start it is worth looking at the coins you get back when spending cash in the shops. In COVID times people are less willing to use physical cash meaning the coins in circulation will definitely be less than usual, which can be a good thing for those selling to collectors!

Cash usage has been declining for years but became particularly precipitous during the pandemic, according to UK Finance.

For more dedicated coin collectors a common practice is to go to the bank and make withdrawals of specific denominations. For example, taking out £200-worth of 50p coins would give you 400 chances at finding a rare one.

Sift through these and you may just find some rare ones. The rest of the 50ps can then be returned to your bank account. Beyond collecting coins such as the 50p or £1 – looking for rare vintage coins can be a niche pursuit that involves valuations from professional coin collectors.

There’s a universe of vintage coins out there and values fluctuate wildly. Old pre-decimalisation money such as shillings and crowns likely won’t have much value, but the market extends all the way to Victorian coinage and older. That being said the likelihood of finding old Roman coins, Spanish gold doubloons or even an Anglo-Saxon hoard are vanishingly rare!

Here are a few more common coins to look out for though, which are much more likely to turn up in your change and perhaps fetch a better-than-face-value price.

To look at the rarity of coins you may find, resources such as Change Checker are a great place to start.

Beatrix Potter – The Royal Mint released a series of coins commemorating the work of Beatrix Potter in 2016. While some have very high circulation rates, other such as the third Peter Rabbit coin had very low issuance numbers and are therefore much rarer.

2012 Olympic coins – The Royal Mint produced a whole series of coins to commemorate the 2012 Olympics. There are 29 different Olympic coins with varying degrees of rarity. For example, over two million swimming 50ps were made but much rarer is the Offside rule coin or Triathlon coin which had only just over one million produced each.

A-Z 10ps – the 10p A-Z coins, launched in March 2018, all reflect one letter of the alphabet which relates to Britain. For example, a commonly found 10p is the K for King Arthur. Much rarer in this series is the Z for Zebra crossing.

Kew Gardens – perhaps one of the rarest 50p coins to enter circulation, the Kew Gardens 50p  frequently sells for hundreds of pounds. Definitely one to keep an eye out for, with just 210,000 minted in 2009, it is the rarest 50p according to Change Checker.