2013 was the 100th anniversary of the British composer Benjamin Britten’s birth. To commemorate his life and work the Royal Mint released a 50p coin in his honour. This was the first 50p coin which had both the date and denomination on the obverse, which makes it a nice collector’s item, as well as being of interest to classical music enthusiasts.
History of The Coin
The 50p coin was first minted in 1969 to replace the 10 shilling note. The coin is heptagonal and apart from being made a little smaller, the overall design has remained unchanged. The original design was Britannia and this is still shown on many 50p coins today. The Royal Mint have also used minted many commemorative 50p coins with original designs replacing the more common Britannia one.
The Benjamin Britten 50p is just one such coin. It commemorates the life and works of one of the UK’s most well known composers.
About Benjamin Britten
Born in Lowestoft in 2013, Benjamin Britten showed his love of music from an early age. He began composing at the age of 12, and studied under Frank Bridge before attending the Royal School of Music.
His early work attracted the attention of the BBC where he worked on a number of scores for film documentaries and in 3 years he had written 40 scores for radio, cinema and theatre.
In 1939 he moved to America where he composed his first operetta, Paul Bunyan. Britten returned to England in 1942, and even managed to compose A Ceremony of Carols on the homeward journey.
He returned to Suffolk and it was here that he composed one of his most famous operas, Peter Grimes. He composed 16 operas in total, 19 orchestral pieces 2 ballets and many other vocal works.
In 1976 he was given a life peerage and became the first composer to receive this honour.
How Many Benjamin Britten 50p Coins Were Made?
In 2013, 5,300,000 Benjamin Britten 50p coins were put in to circulation.
Design and Designer
- Front design:
The front of the coin has Britten’s name in a music stave. The words ‘Blow bugle blow’ are at the top and ‘Set the wild echoes flying’ is at the bottom.
- Obverse design:
The 2nd portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley
- Designer: Tom Phillips CBE RA
The Benjamin Britten 50p was designed by Royal Academy artist Tom Phillips.
Tom’s first exhibition was in London in 1965 and he has taught in art schools, including Ipswich, Bath and Wolverhampton. He also has a love of music, not only writing compositions of his own, but he was an influence on Brian Eno.
His commissions can be seen all over the country and prove just how diverse his artistic talents are. They include sculptures, tapestries, street memorials, ornaments and sacred spaces.
He has also won many awards, including the John Moores prize and Frances Williams Memorial prize. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1984, and made a CBE in 2001.
His other coin designs include the 2003 £5 coin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the coronation.
5,300,000 Benjamin Britten 50p coins were circulated and it was the first to have the denomination and year on the obverse.
- Brilliant uncirculated coins are available
- Limited edition silver proof and gold proof coins were also produced.