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50p scarcity index

The 50p scarcity index gives an approximate indication of the availability of one 50p coin compared to another. The scarcity index is used to try and work out if a 50p coin is rare, and thus potentially valuable.

50p rarity index

It is not easy to index the rarity of one 50p coin compared to another; accurate information is difficult to find. Ultimately, any attempt to calculate scarcity is based on some imprecise factors. This makes it difficult when trying to determine if a coin should have any additional value.

A 50p rarity index is further complicated by the huge variety and quantities of these coins. As far back as 2014 it was estimated there were 948 million 50p coins in circulation.

The 50p coin replaced the ten shilling note. Despite its decimal denomination it was introduced in 1969, two years before the UK officially adopted decimalisation in 1971. Made from cupronickel, the first coins weighed 13.5g, and had a diameter of 30 mm. After 1997 it was reduced to 8g, and now has a diameter of 27.5 mm.

Besides common currency 50p coins now in circulation, the Royal Mint has also struck precious metal commemorative 50p coins, which are much rarer, and more valuable.

Gold 2000 Public Libraries coin.

This 2000 Fifty Pence gold proof coin celebrated the 150th anniversary of Public Libraries. It comes boxed with a certificate of authentication. Only 2000 of these coins were issued by the Royal Mint, making it a rare coin.

Some scarce base metal circulation 50p coins can be worth more than 50p, usually due to a minting error, but precious metal 50p coins are all worth far more. Their precious metal content alone makes them attractive to investors as a safe haven in a diverse portfolio. Plus, as legal tender, 50p coins struck in precious metals have tax advantages over metal bars of the same weight.

Mintage figures
Fortunately, the original mintage figures for 50p coins is one precise fact that can be relied upon, when published. Mintage figures give a definitive number of how many coins were issued, which is undoubtedly useful when trying to calculate scarcity. The Royal Mint do release the mintage figures for their coins, but this can be a relatively long time after release.

Issue limits are usually provided much sooner – generally at the time the coin is announced – and offer a maximum number that can be struck, but don’t necessarily represent how many the Mint eventually strike. This makes issue limits less accurate, but still useful.

Kew gardens 50p, was on the highest on the scarcity index.

The Royal Mint struck just 210,000 of the 2009 Kew Gardens 50p coins. It is now one of the nation's rarest common currency coins, and near the top of the 50p scarcity index.

As well as the Kew Gardens coin above, the 2012 Olympic 50p coins are also rare. Minted in 2011, these include the wrestling design with a mintage of 1,129,500 coins, and the 'offside rule' football design with 1,161,500 coins.

Coin wastage
The less precise factors necessary to estimate a coin’s position on the scarcity index of 50p coins, are the possible wastage and collectability of the coin. Both rely on estimates, making them dubious in their accuracy.

Wastage occurs over time as coins are lost and destroyed. Central banks withdraw and melt down coins, as happened several times over the course of the UK’s coinage history. If coins are made of precious metals, they may have been illicitly melted down for their metal content.

The older the coin – or rather the longer it has been in circulation – the greater this wastage will be, driving up the scarcity.

Collectability increases scarcity as collectors tend to hoard desirable specimens. This can be simply because a coin has some special historic and numismatic significance, or it may simply look good! Plus, collectibility is self-perpetuating; as more and more collectors search for the same coin, it becomes even scarcer.

Working out how collectable a coin is requires a lot of guesswork. Online trading sites can give an idea of how many of the coins are being traded for, and at what price, but firm numbers are ultimately impossible to come by.

50p scarcity index
Comparing coins using a scarcity index system can give a rough indication of how easy finding a particular coin could be, and as a result whether to expect a higher price. Ultimately, though, a coin’s eventual worth will depend upon its condition not the ease of finding. Perfect mint condition and proof coins, as defined on measures such as the Sheldon scale below, will always command much higher prices, whatever their scarcity.

The Sheldon scale of coin grading. .

Making the calculation
To arrive at a rough scarcity index, subtract your estimate of the wastage and collectability, from the mintage number or issue limit.

Graphic explaining how the 50p scarcity index can be roughly calculated.

An approximate scarcity index is arrived at by subtracting the wastage and collectability factors from the number of coins minted.

BullionByPost's website contains information that can help you work out the scarcity of precious metal coins. We have details about gold 50p coins including mintage number where available, helping you to calculate how scarce these coins are.