The 2008 Britannia 50p Design Change & the Introduction of the Royal Arms

Author: Lawrence Chard - Chairman and CEO

Published: 9 Nov 2018

Last Updated: 2 Feb 2023


In 2008, Gordon Brown replaced the iconic Britannia design on the 50p coin with a new design featuring the Royal Arms, designed by Matthew Dent. This new design has been in circulation since then, it is one of six original general circulated base metal coins that make up the complete Royal Arms shield, which can also be found on the one pound coin.

The Britannia Design Removed in 2008 for 50 Pence Coins.

One of Gordon Brown's last acts as Chancellor of the Exchequer and boss of the Royal Mint, was to decree that Britannia had to go. In August 2005, the Royal Mint promoted a design competition for new UK coinage designs. In December 2007, it was announced that all the normal circulation coin designs were to be replaced by new ones. This appear to apply to all seven common denominations, from the pound coin down to the penny, including the fifty pence. Of all seven existing reverse design themes or motifs, we believe that Britannia on the fifty pence, is the most iconic, and the most instantly identifiable with Britain.

The Royal Arms 2008 Design 

This new design, created by Matthew Dent, was first introduced in 2008 and has remained in circulation until present day. It is worth noting that this design is one of the six original general circulated base metal coins that make up the complete Royal Arms shield, which can also be found on the one pound coin.

Britannia's removal from 50p coin: The debate and impact

It seems that Gordon Brown's decision to replace the iconic Britannia design on the 50p coin with the Royal Arms design, which was made in 2008, is still the subject of criticism and debate. Some argue that the media continues to blame Brown for any negative implications of this coinage change, while others suggest that it may be seen as an effort to distance himself from his predecessor Tony Blair and the notion of "Cool Britannia". It could also be argued that this decision was a continuation of a policy set by the 1997 Labour Government when they scrapped the Royal Yacht Britannia.


Britannia Waves Goodbye


Britannia Waves Goodbye

The BBC Calls Chards - November 2008

In November 2008, our CEO, Lawrence Chard, received a call at 6:30 a.m. The caller was the BBC, inquiring if they could conduct a telephone interview at 10:00 a.m. for one of their regional radio stations, regarding the removal of Britannia from our coins. Lawrence agreed, stating "Why not?" One of the questions that came to his mind was what could replace Britannia on our coins. He admitted, "I had to admit that I did not know." He also mentioned that he had given a lot of thought to the subject, but he would likely be as surprised as everyone else when the new designs were unveiled. As for less serious suggestions, he mentioned Gordon Brown and Fish and Chips.

For a comprehensive examination of the story of Britannia on coins, you can visit our hub page.

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