The first 50 pence piece was minted in 1969. When it was first produced it was the largest coin in circulation. In 1997 a smaller version was produced in the shape of a hexagon and it still has the same design.
Many commemorative 50 pen pieces have been produced and one such design is the Sir Isaac Newton 50p. This was produced to commemorate the 375th anniversary of Isaac Newton’s birth. This was one of the rarer 50 pence pieces until recently, but it is still very sought after as it features a prominent and celebrated scientist who also was a history as part of the Royal Mint.
About Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton is probably best known for his Theory of Universal Gravitation, but he was an important figure in the country’s history.
Born in Woolsthorpe in Lincolnshire on Christmas Day 1642 he went to Cambridge University in 1661. He studied the Classics and philosophy and took an interest in science and mathematics.
His book, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy was published in 1687 and is it this publication which inspired the design of the 50p. In this work Newton outlined the laws of motion and universal gravitation.
In later life he turned his attention to politics and served two terms as an MP for the University of Cambridge. He then moved to the Royal Mint, where he served as Warden from 1696-1700 and as Master from 1700-1727.
During his time at the Royal Mint he made many changes which affected the quality of the coins produced and refined. He also brought Scottish and English coinage in to line following the Union of England and Scotland in 1707.
How Many Sir Isaac Newton 50p Coins Were Made
There are approximately 1.8 million Sir Isaac Newton 50p coins in circulation, but they were not all produced at the same time.
- In 2017 the initial run was for 375 coins to commemorate the 375th anniversary of his birth.
- The mintage was then increased to 1.8 million later in the year, making it the second lowest at the time to the Kew Gardens 50p.
- More were produced during 2018 but these coins were only available to visitors to the Royal Mint Experience in Wales and it is estimated there were less than 20,000 of these produced.
Design and designer
- Front Design:
The design is based on elements of Proposition 11 in book one of Newton’s Principia Mathematica. It shows ellipses with objects moving along them with the sun in the middle.
- Obverse Design:
This has a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark and this is the 5th portrait to be used on coins. This has been used since 2015.
- Designer: Aaron West
The designer of the Sir Isaac Newton 50p is Aaron West who works in the graphic design team at the Royal Mint.
He studied Graphic Design at the University of South Wales and went on to get his PGCE in Higher Education. He worked in advertising and teaching before finding his role at the Royal Mint.
His first coin was the 2016 £2 coin to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. The Sir Isaac Newton 50p coin won the award for 2017 Coin Design of the Year and his initials can be seen on the bottom right of the coin.
He decided not to go for a portrait of Newton, as he felt many other designers would all opt for that. Instead he researched Newton’s principles and created his unique design which perfectly fits the shape of a 50 pence piece.
There are a few variations of the Sir Isaac Newton 50p, some of which are still available from the Royal Mint.
- 2018 versions are the rarer ones as these were not put in to general circulation and there are only approximately 20,000 of them.
- Brilliant Uncirculated versions are also available, and 30,000 of these were produced.
- The Silver Proof has a circulation of 7,000 and there is also a Silver Proof Piedfort with a mintage of 4,500.
- The Gold Proof version has a circulation of just 600.