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Public Libraries 50p

by Simon Barker

public libraries 50p

  • Circulation: 11,263,000
  • Year issued: 2000
  • Value circulated: 50p
  • Value circulated in excellent condition: £2.00
  • Value uncirculated: £7.00
  • Composition: Cupro-nickel. 75% copper and 25% nickel
  • Scarcity index: 1 – Common

One of the popular designs on a 50 pence piece is the Public Libraries. Many people collect these special coins and this is no exception. It is a common coin at the moment, but over time it will only increase in value, and as public libraries are closing down, it is likely to become more sought after.

History of the coin

The 50 pence piece was first minted in 1969 and is in the shape of a heptagon. When it was first produced it was the largest coin in circulation, and a smaller version was introduced in 1997.

The Public Libraries 50p coin was designed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Public Libraries act 1850. This act allowed the creation of free public libraries throughout England and Wales, and was extended to include Scotland in 1853.

It allowed all boroughs to create a public library which could be used free by anyone to obtain information or reading material. Boroughs were allowed to increase taxation to pay for this but had restrictions placed on them as to how much they could charge.

About Public Libraries

Before the Public Libraries Act, circulating libraries used to visit towns and villages across the country. These used to sell books, but they also used to lend them out as well. This was not a free service and everyone had to pay a small fee to borrow a book. Some circulating libraries also offered a subscription service, allowing people to pay annually, quarterly or monthly, and they could then borrow as many books as they wanted.

After the Act, libraries offered a free lending service for all, allowing the lower classes access to literature. The first free library to open in November 1850 was The Royal Museum and Public Library in Salford, now the Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

Over the years Public Libraries offered many services, including the loan of videos, DVDs, music CDs and audio books. They provide local papers for people to read and reference sections so people can study in a peaceful atmosphere. More recently they have been updated to provide access to the internet and most libraries are places for local groups to visit, such as children’s reading groups or adult book clubs.

In 1857, 11 boroughs had created a free public library service in England. In 2019 there are 4,145 libraries in the UK, and they receive over 282 million visits each year.

How Many Public Libraries 50p Coins Were Made?

When they were issued, 11,263,000 Public Libraries 50 pence coins were put into circulation. It will still be possible to find one in excellent condition. These coins were also issued as part of a collector’s set of 50 pence pieces.

Design & Designer

  • Front Design

The front of the coin shows the pages turning in an open book, which is sitting on top of a building with the words ‘Public Library’ written on it. At the top are the dates 1850 – 2000.

  • Obverse Design

There is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley. This portrait was used on all coins from 1998 – 2014, and it is the 4th portrait of the Queen to be used on coins.

  • Designer: Mary Milner Dickens

Mary Milner Dickens is a sculptor and medallist who studied at the Royal College of Art and the Leicester College of Art. She also spent time studying at Cornell University in the US and at the British School in Rome.

Her first coin design was the 1992-1993 50p which commemorated the UK’s Presidency of the European Council of Ministers and the Single Market. Other coin designs include the 2003 50p commemorating the centenary of the Women’s Social and Political Union, and the 2001 crown commemorating the death of Queen Victoria.

She has also designed medals, including the 1990 anniversary medal of the Battle of Britain and the 1994 Royal Mint’s Fleur de Coin Club medal.


There are no variations of the Public Libraries 50p coin, but it is number 4 in the Royal Mint British Coin Hunt 50p Album.

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