The Kew Gardens 50p Coin

Author: Victoria Toothill - Guest Writer

Published: 21 Apr 2020

Last Updated: 11 May 2020

Kew Gardens 50 Pence

The Kew Gardens 50p is the rarest coin currently in circulation. It has been known to sell for over 200 times its face value. Here we take a look at the coin, its surprising popularity and the organisation it was minted to celebrate.

Gold Kew Gardens 50 Pence Rare Coins The Royal Mint

The Rarest of Them All - The Kew Gardens Circulating 50p

The commemorative Kew Gardens 50p, created to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Kew Gardens, has become something of a numismatic holy grail. However, its popularity has nothing to do with the gardens or their fame but a fluke of minting coincidence. When this coin was struck in 2009, only 210,000 were produced. This is very unusual as a new 50p design will normally have 5 million coins put into circulation. So, you can see that the Kew gardens design is much rarer than other designs but why? 

Well, the number of coins struck by the Royal Mint in any one year depends upon demand. The Royal Mint provides coins to banks, Post Offices and distribution centres. There is no way to know for certain but perhaps demand that year was particularly low. Also, plans were already underway for the 2012 50ps that would celebrate the London 2012 Olympics. There were 29 designs released that year and circulation was flooded with a total of 53,261,000 new 50ps. So, it is probable that the mintage numbers of 50ps in the preceding years were kept to a minimum to prepare for this excess.

Some collectors worried when, in 2019, the Kew Gardens 50p was reissued as part of the ‘50th Anniversary of the 50p’ coin set. How many would be minted? Would this make their original less rare? However, they needn’t have troubled themselves! The reissued coins were released with a different obverse design. On the 2019 coin, we see the fifth definitive UK coin portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (easily distinguishable by the drop pearl earrings) and the inscription includes the new date (2019). So, all you have to do to make sure you have an original is check out the Queen. 

The Kew Gardens 50p Design

On its obverse, the 2009 Kew Gardens 50p piece bears the fourth definitive UK coin portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Designed by sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, this portrait was introduced in 1998. The engraving displays a more mature portrait of the Queen. The inscription reads ELIZABETH · II D · G REG · F · D FIFTY PENCE. 

2009 Kew Gardens 50 Pence Coin

2009 Kew Gardens Fifty Pence Reverse Design

On the reverse, designed by Christopher Le Brun RA, the Chinese Pagoda building is encircled by two entwined vines. The 9 of the 10 octagonal storeys of the building are visible with three of the arches on each floor. Curiously, the ground floor of the building is missing from the coin. The roof of the bottom floor is visible and has the word Kew written across it. However, we do not see the columns below or the door to the building. The date 1759 (date of opening) appears on the left of the building and 2009 (date of 250th anniversary) appears to its right. 

Limited Edition Varieties

This coin was minted in five varieties. In addition to the circulated coins, there were BU, Silver, Piedfort and Gold varieties issued by the Royal Mint.

Date Variety Mintage
2009 Kew Gardens 50p Gold 629
2009 Kew Gardens 50p Piedfort 2,967
2009 Kew Gardens 50p Silver 7,575
2009 Kew Gardens 50p BU 128,364
2009 Kew Gardens Circulating 50p 210,000

Gold

The gold proof Kew Gardens 50p coin comes in a fine wooden presentation case and is accompanied by an authenication card bearing the issue number of the coin. One of these coins sold at a Royal Mint auction at the end of last year for £1,800. A steal compared to some sellers who are asking £10,000!

Piedfort

The silver proof piedfort version of the coin sits in a black presentation box with authenication card. The authentication card should bear the Royal Mint logo and the issue number of the coin. This popular version of the coin apparently sold for £490 at the end of 2019 and before that hadn't really been seen since one sold at auction in 2018 for just £160. So, as you can see, it rarely comes up and is growing in value rapidly! 

Silver

The silver proof coin comes in a presentation box with authentication card. In the summer of 2019, one of these was snapped up at auction for £150. Well up from March 2015 when some lucky soul managed to scoop one for just £95! Clearly, 50p fever is working wonders on the value of these coins.

Brilliant Uncirculated

The BU coin was distributed by the Royal Mint in a limited edition pack. The coin was sealed into presentation booklet with information about Kew Gardens. There were only 50,000 of these packs produced by the Royal Mint and the other BU coins minted were distributed to other sellers to be packaged. An uncirculated Kew Gardens 50p sold at auction for £95 in December last year but in a good condition Royal Mint limited edition pack they can fetch around £200!

Celebrating Excellence

The lovely Pagoda building portrayed on the coin is just the beginning of what Kew Gardens has to offer. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site with over 50,000 plants in its botanical collections. Vast and beautiful, the gardens encompass Victorian glasshouses, 37 acre natural woodland, Alpine rock gardens and a stunning Arboretum with 14,000 trees. With all of this to see, it isn’t surprising that the gardens attract over 2.1 million visitors a year.  

Kew Gardens Purpose 

But Kew isn’t just a beautiful place to visit. It is an internationally important botanical research and education institution. With more than 350 scientists, Kew Gardens is a research powerhouse that covers global issues such as the impact of climate change on threatened habitats, the discovery and identification of new species and banking the world’s seeds as part of the largest plant conservation programme on the planet (the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership).  

Kew Gardens Silver 50 Pence

250 Years of History

Founded in 1759 by Henry, Lord Capell of Tewkesbury, the gardens were originally separate royal estates that were combined to create the massive 326 acre site. Over their 250 years, the gardens have evolved into a quirky little community with an interesting back story! 

  • Impressively, five trees still survive from the establishment of the botanical gardens. Together they are known as the 'Five Lions' and consist of: a ginkgo tree, a pagoda or scholar tree, an oriental plane, a black locust or false acacia tree, and a Caucasian elm or zelkova tree.  
  • Perhaps surprisingly, the gardens have their own police force. Kew Constabulary were established in 1847 and have all the powers of an officer of the Metropolitan Police but they mainly act as security patrol and park rangers. 
  • Shockingly, the gardens were attacked in the February of 1913! Suffragettes Olive Wharry and Lilian Lenton burned down the Tea House as part of a campaign of arson attacks that took place throughout London. 
  • Remarkably, the gardens had the tallest wooden flagpole in the world from 1959. It was carved from a giant Douglas fir from Canada and stood at 225 feet (69m). It was a gift to mark the bicentenary (200 year anniversary) of Kew Gardens. Unfortunately, the flagpole had to be removed in 2007 as it had become dangerous because of damage from the weather and woodpeckers!

Certainly, a place worth celebrating. To get your hands on a piece of numismatic and botanical history, you can always try to find one yourself or you can join our waiting list and be first to hear when we come across one! Just follow this link to the 2009 UK Coin 50p BU Kew Gardens - Uncirculated or 2009 50p Coin Kew Gardens - Ordinary Circulation and click on 'Email me when back in stock'. 

Further Reading

If you would like to know more about some of the most collectable coins in modern numismatics, we recommend the following:

The Most Collectable 50 Pence Coins

Olympic 50p - The Error Coin You Won't Find in Your Change

Is My Fifty Pence Rare?

Or for rare and old coins check out our coin collecting guides!

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