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All Change: Decimalisation







The unusual shape of the 50p was suggested by H. G. Conway, a member of the Decimal Currency Board. As originally designed, the coin showed an arrangement by Christopher Ironside of the Royal Arms





50p poster

Enter the 50p

Decimal Currency Board Newsletter, September 1969


The first of the new coins, the 5p and 10p, began to be issued to the public in April 1968. Because they corresponded exactly in size and value, they were able to circulate alongside shillings and florins and served a useful purpose in preparing the public for what was to happen and in offering reassurance about the simplicity of the change-over, now less than three years away.

50p


In October 1969 the 50p piece joined the 5p and 10p in circulation. If its design could be described as traditional, for coinage its equilateral curve heptagon shape was revolutionary, making it distinctive and giving it a constant breadth that allowed it to roll in vending machines. Yet despite having been the subject of more research and consultation than any previous coin in British history it was greeted with undisguised hostility. Fortunately the alarm, based in part on fear of confusion with the 10p, was short-lived and the coin quickly fulfilled its purpose of replacing the ten-shilling note, whose active life of only four or five months had made its production, circulation, withdrawal and destruction an increasingly expensive operation for the Bank of England.

So, with the issue of the 5p, 10p and 50p, people were becoming thoroughly familiar long before D Day with the look and feel of three of the six decimal denominations. The remaining three coins, with no exact £sd equivalent, were not to be released until D Day itself but even here familiarity was promoted by the sale from June 1968 of large numbers of special souvenir sets of ½p, 1p, 2p, 5p and 10p pieces.