The 2019 Snowman 50p Coin

Author: Victoria Toothill - Guest Writer

Published: 28 May 2020

Last Updated: 22 Dec 2022


Following the success of a wordless picture book created by Raymond Briggs, a brand new, up and coming television channel (Channel 4) added an instant classic to their Christmas programming. The animated film version of The Snowman, first broadcast on Boxing Day 1982 to an audience of 7.1million, has been a permanent fixture of Christmas ever since. Its success brought it a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and then it won a BAFTA TV Award. Forty years after the book was published, and 36 years after it first hit our screens, The Snowman had become as much a part of Christmas as turkey! To celebrate this impressive achievement, the Royal Mint issued a pair of coins to celebrate the popular tale. In this blog, we take a look at the second of these festive coins. 

2019 Snowman BU

Reverse Design

Designed by Snowman Enterprises using the illustrations of Robin Shaw, the reverse (pictured above) once again features the snowman and his little friend James. Unlike the 2018 coin, the pair are standing. They appear to have just landed in the clearing that will host the party of the snowmen. James is in the forefront this time but he touchingly gazes up at the snowman behind him. This is actually down to the illustrator’s work on the Snowman40 campaign. As Shaw explained in an interview for the Royal Mint: “This particular sketch that features on the coin derives from several illustrations I drew to mark the 40th anniversary of the book’s publication… I painted some really magical wintry scenes – the sort you imagine as a child – and drew some moving little poses of the Snowman with James. It’s wonderful to see how these have come together to form this design. And following the popularity of last year’s release, it’s great to introduce the other main character, the little boy James, more fully on the 2019 coin. I love how the design puts him at the front and centre.”

2019 Snowman Silver Proof Obverse

Obverse Design

The obverse of the coin bears the fifth portrait of The Queen. Designed by Royal Mint engraver, Jody Clark, the fifth definitive UK coin portrait features a bust of Queen Elizabeth II wearing the King George IV State Diadem. This portrait shows an 88-year-old Queen with deep wrinkles around the eye and mouth areas. The Queen wears Diamond Jubilee drop pearl earrings and her chin is lifted slightly, which has been said to indicate that she is looking positively towards the future. The truncation is shaped into a sweeping curve. This portrait was introduced in 2015 and continues to be used today. The inscription reads: ELIZABETH · II · D · G REG · F · D · 50 PENCE · 2019.

A Snowy Success Story Becomes a Fabulously Festive Film

The 2019 coin seems to connect more closely to the animated film version of the story than the book. It features James and the snowman stood in a snowy clearing, much like the one where the party of the snowmen takes place. However, this party didn’t take place in the book version of the story. The original tale had to be embellished to fill 26 minutes and so the team added a longer flying sequence which took the pair to the North Pole and the party with Father Christmas.

The famously grinch-like creator of the original book, Raymond Briggs was initially sceptical about the addition of Christmas but once he had seen the film he had to admit defeat and give the go ahead to the charming additions, saying: "'It's a bit corny and twee, dragging in Christmas', as The Snowman had nothing to do with that, but it worked extremely well."

The film also gave little James his name as, although the boy in the book is unnamed, in the film, the name "James" appears on the tag of the present he is given by Father Christmas. This was added by animator Joanna Harrison as it was her boyfriend’s (later her husband) name.

Coin Varieties

Date Variety Mintage
2019 The Snowman 50p Gold 600
2019 The Snowman 50p Silver with Colour 2,500
2019 The Snowman 50p Silver with Colour LEP 25,000
2019 The Snowman 50p BU UNLIMITED

Capitalising on the popularity of the story, The Royal Mint produced several limited edition versions of the coin. Minted in different metals and sold in different packaging, collectors can choose which version they like the look of or splash out on all four. Unlike other literature inspired designs (like Beatrix Potter and Paddington Bear) no Snowman 50p pieces were ever put into general circulation. 

The 2019 Snowman 50p Gold Proof

The rarest 2019 Snowman coin available is the gold proof version. However, the mintage for the 2019 gold proof went up a little with 600 pieces in comparison to just 400 for the 2018 Snowman coin. This seems to have been a shrewd move from The Royal Mint as even with the slightly higher (still pretty tiny) mintage, the whole lot sold out in no time. This was even more surprising because the price had also gone up from the first design, jumping from only £795 for the 2018 design to £1,020.00 for the 2019 coin. The coin comes in a high-quality wooden case and is accompanied by an informative leaflet about the story and an authentication certificate.

2019 Snowman Gold
2019 Snowman Silver with Colour

The 2019 Snowman 50p Silver Proof With Colour

These 2,500 coins are quite the mystery. We do not know for sure how (or when) they will be sold. The Royal Mint Website explains that, “Limited Edition Presentation (LEP) refers to the number of coins presented in our [2019 Snowman] packaging, whereas the Maximum Coin Mintage (MCM) is the total number of coins struck. The [2019 Snowman LEP is 25,000 and the MCM is 27,500,] meaning there is an allocation of [2,500] coins available for alternative presentations.” So, that’s all we can say for now. We will keep our eyes peeled and let you know when more details have been released.

The 2019 Snowman 50p Silver Proof with Colour LEP

A wonderfully festive presentation of this coin. The coin, struck to perfect proof quality, is printed to mirror the delicate and dream-like animation of the film. The coin is protected by an acrylic block, just like the 2018 coin. Again, the block has illustrations of gently falling snowflakes but in 2019 a ring of wintery plants was added. The title, The Snowman, still sits above the coin at the top of the block. Along with a leaflet of information about the story, the coin is packed into a colourful box, which were both illustrated by Robin Shaw. Perhaps not surprisingly, following the great popularity of the 2018 Snowman Silver Proof, the mintage of this coin shot up from just 15,000 coins in the 2018 design’s run to 25,000 for the 2019 coin. Good news if you missed out on the 2018 version as you’ll have more chance to get your hands on this one, but it might have an impact on the value of the coin down the years.

2019 Snowman Silver Proof Packaging
2019 Snowman BU Packaging

The 2019 Snowman 50p BU

Embedded into its nostalgic information leaflet complete with illustrations from Robin Shaw, the brilliant uncirculated version of the 2019 Snowman coin makes a festive addition to any collection. However, you do have to remember to check whether or not the coin you are ordering will come in this presentation leaflet. At the time of publication, this coin is still available to buy from The Royal Mint and, obviously, when purchased directly from them it will come complete with presentation leaflet. If you buy from Chards, it will too but it will also cost you a little less. We are selling the 2019 Snowman 50p BU for just £9! Ordering from other dealers can mean that the coin may come in their own packaging, which is often a disappointment in comparison to The Royal Mint official presentation.

Meet the Animator

The Royal Mint chose well when it recruited award-winning animator and illustrator Robin Shaw to help with the design of the 2018 Snowman coin. So much so, that when they decided to make another in 2019 his illustrations were featured again. It’s no wonder really as his relationship with the famous snowman goes back to his childhood and has spanned his working life. When chosen to help head the 2012 sequel The Snowman and The Snowdog, a thrilled Shaw had this to say:

“Watching 'The Snowman' as a child was one of the main reasons I became an animator. It was different from all the other types of animation I'd seen and was the first time I'd seen illustrations burst into life in such a striking, sublime way. I was delighted therefore to be asked to join the directing team of 'The Snowman and The Snowdog'."

His work on The Snowman and The Snowdog was preceded by his work on the hilarious Irn Bru ‘Phenominal Christmas’ ads that featured Father Christmas, a snowman and a young boy squabbling over a can of the drink. All drawn in the distinctive hand-drawn style that epitomises anything ‘snowman’. More recently, he has also illustrated a retelling of The Snowman by beloved children’s author Michael Morpurgo that puts words to the famously wordless tale. He will clearly never get bored of drawing snowmen!

In an interview with The Royal Mint, Shaw discussed how it felt to be part of designing the 2019 Snowman coin:

 “There’s something about designing something which is part of the fabric of society, which is an incredibly special thing to do and an honour and a privilege… it [British coinage] is a sort of invisible thread that ties society together. If you make something like that, it’s once in a lifetime and it really does mean a lot.”

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