In 2005 the Royal Mint issued a commemorative 50p to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Johnson’s Dictionary. The coin is a popular item for coin collectors, but anyone who is interested in British history or the English language will want to add this to their collection.
History of the coin
The first 50p coin was minted in 1969, ready for the new currency which was introduced in 1971. The coin had 7 sides to make it easily identifiable. In 1997 a further change was made when a number of coins were reduced in size, and the 50p was one of them, though it kept its distinctive shape.
Over the years it has seen a number of different portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and many variations on the reverse. The most common is Britannia, but many 50p coins have a commemorative design on them.
About Johnson’s Dictionary
Johnson’s Dictionary, or A Dictionary of the English Language, is one of the most famous dictionaries in history.
It was compiled by Dr Samuel Johnson and first published in 1755. The dictionary took 8 years to complete and contained 40,000 words, with over 114,000 quotations in the definitions. It was the first dictionary to include detailed explanations and is the foundation for modern dictionaries.
Samuel Johnson was a biographer, literary critic and essayist. Although forced to give up his studies at Oxford University due to lack of funds, his dictionary earned him an M.A. from Oxford and honorary Doctorates from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Oxford.
Johnson’s Dictionary was used by scholars and writers for 150 years until the Oxford English Dictionary was first published in 1928.
How many Johnson’s Dictionary 50p coins were made?
The original circulation of Johnson’s Dictionary 50p was 17,649,000.
Design and designer
- Front design:
The Johnson’s Dictionary 50p has entries from the dictionary arranged around it, including ‘Fifty Pence’, ‘Saxon’ and ‘plural of penny’. The words ;Johnson’s Dictionary; and ‘1755’ are at the bottom.
- Obverse design:
Ian Rank-Broadley’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II appears on the obverse.
- Designer: Tom Phillips
Tom Phillips is an artist who uses many different forms, from painting to sculpture and tapestry. He has also written musical compositions which have been performed by professional musicians.
His first art exhibition was held in 1965 in London, and he has since had his works exhibited in the USA, Australia and France.
His work includes portraits of Iris Murdoch, Salman Rushdie and Monty python. His work is also displayed around the country and these include the Armed Forces Memorial at Westminster Abbey, and works in The Ivy, Westminster Cathedral and St Catherine’s College, Oxford.
Tom’s other coin designs include the Benjamin Britten 50p, the Jubilee Crown and Silver and Gold Proof coins to commemorate Shakespeare in 2016.
17,649,000 Johnson’s Dictionary 50p coins were issued in 2005.
- Brilliant uncirculated coins are available
- 1,100 Gold Proof coins were produced
- 6,500 Silver Proof coins were produced.
- 3,800 Silver Proof Piedfort coins were produced.