The Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Coin

Author: Victoria Toothill - Guest Writer

Published: 21 May 2020

Last Updated: 8 Jun 2020


In 1999, author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler introduced us to The Gruffalo, a story that would become one of the most popular picture books in the world. Twenty years on, 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 charming coins. 

Gruffalo and Mouse 50p BU Reverse

Reverse Design

Designed by Magic Light Pictures, the reverse (pictured above) features the mouse looking understandably terrified as he stumbles upon the Gruffalo. The words ‘The Gruffalo’ curve across the top of the coin and beneath them the hulking form of the Gruffalo himself takes up most of the centre of the coin. Unlike the first Gruffalo 50p, we can see the whole of the Gruffalo, right down to his “turned-out toes”. In front of the Gruffalo, looking tiny in the bottom-left of the coin, the mouse peers up at him as a butterfly flutters above.  In the background, we see the rocks, trees and plants of The Deep Dark Forest.

Gruffalo and Mouse 50p BU 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 Spectacular Success Story

Before it's characters became the inspiration for a fabulous 50p, The Gruffalo was translated into more than 40 languages, made into a touring stage play, turned into an animated film (that had 9 million viewers when it aired on Christmas Day in 2012) and everyone’s favourites, the Gruffalo and mouse, peek out from T-shirts, plates, mugs, notebooks, games and anything else you can think of. When confronted by all of this, it is no surprise that Donaldson says she sometimes feels like the miniature hero of her story whose imagination brings things to life:

"I mean, I do feel quite like the mouse in the story, You know: 'Oh! That's the Gruffalo – I thought it was just in my imagination.'"

The story follows this quick-witted mouse on a thrilling adventure in search of a nut, but he stumbles upon something far worse. On its travels the mouse finds the company of various wildlife that share little interest in finding the nut, instead trying to eat our protagonist. However, in each of these encounters the mouse outwits these predators, deceiving them into believing in a beast with horns, bright orange eyes and a black tongue; the Gruffalo. Once the mouse meets the Gruffalo, finding the creature to indeed be real, his witty comments continue as he tells the Gruffalo he is the scariest creature in the forest, and he can prove it! Asking the Gruffalo to follow him through the forest, the pair confront the snake, owl and fox ending with them all running in fear.  

Coin Varieties

Date Variety Mintage
2019 Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Gold  600
2019 Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Silver with Colour 5,000
2019 Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Silver with Colour LEP 25,000
2019 Gruffalo and Mouse 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 Gruffalo and Mouse 50p pieces were ever put into general circulation. 

The Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Gold Proof

The rarest Gruffalo and Mouse coin available is the gold proof version. Despite an extremely limited mintage of only 600 pieces, there are still a few available to buy from The Royal Mint. The coin comes in a high-quality wooden case and is accompanied by an informative leaflet about the story and an authentication certificate.

Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Gold
Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Silver Proof Reverse

The Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Silver Proof With Colour

Like their earlier gruffalo counterparts, these 5,000 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 Gruffalo 20th Anniversary packaging, whereas the Maximum Coin Mintage (MCM) is the total number of coins struck. The Gruffalo LEP is 25,000 and the MCM is 30,000, meaning there is an allocation of 5,000 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 Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Silver Proof with Colour LEP

A beautiful piece for fans of The Gruffalo. The coin, struck to perfect proof quality, was then printed so that the scene appears just as it does in the picture book. The coin is protected by an acrylic block, which incorporates illustrations of the snake, the fox and the owl. The quote “There’s no such thing as a gruffalo?” sits in the top-left corner of the block. Along with a leaflet of information about the story, the coin is packed into a colourful box, which is also illustrated with pictures from the tale.

Gruffalo and Mouse 50p Silver Proof in Packaging
Gruffalo and Mouse 50p BU in Packaging

The Gruffalo and Mouse 50p BU

Embedded into its bright, multi-coloured information leaflet, the brilliant uncirculated version of the Gruffalo and Mouse coin makes a cheerful 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. If you buy from The Royal Mint, which you can still do at the moment, then it definitely will. Also, if you buy from Chards, it certainly will and it will cost you a little less as we are selling the BU version for only £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.

The Mouse - Smarter Than Your Average

Having patiently waited his turn and let the Gruffalo go first, our friend the mouse has finally made it onto a 50p! He may have to share the spotlight on his coin but we have focussed just on him for a deeper look at this impressive little fellow and what lessons we might learn from him. 

Brains Over Brawn

On the surface, this is very much a mind over matter sort of tale as the little mouse takes on not just the other animals but the Gruffalo too with his impressive intellect. It's about courage and overcoming bullies. Life can be frightening; life can be threatening. All sorts of perils lie in wait for you, even if you have done nothing to provoke them. Should you manage to wriggle out of one precarious spot, another may arise even more dicey than the last. And the most alarming thing you can possibly envisage? It might just come true. However, we see that as long as the mouse trusts in his imagination, intellect and intuition, he always comes out on top. This may seem like a straight forward moral for kids of all ages – have courage and rely on your brains and you’ll do fine. However, there are subtle warnings in the story too.

Keep an Open Mind and Be Careful What You Wish For...

Very much in the vein of gothic horror, there is a cautionary theme about over confidence in cold logic and becoming too sure of your own world view. In many gothic tales (like The Red Room or Dracula), the protagonist is initially completely certain that their logic and reasoning protect them in a mundane world that is entirely as it seems. Our mousey hero clearly feels this way as he scoffs, “Silly old snake, doesn’t he know there’s no such thing as a Gruffal…oh?” just before he realises, he is stood before just such a creature. The Gruffalo is pure magic and imagination. In shrewdly scaring away his would-be predators, the mouse casts a spell, unwittingly summoning this fearsome creature. Again, drawing from the worlds of fantasy and horror, he is the image of many cocky, cynical non-believers who are confronted by the supernatural magic they did not previously believe in. Clearly impressed by his own cleverness, he chants:

"He has terrible tusks and terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws."

"He has knobbly knees and turned out toes and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose."

"His eyes are orange; his tongue is black. He has purple prickles all over his back."

It has rather a "double, double toil and trouble" feel to it don't you think? The mouse unintentionally puts together a monster tailor made to kill not just his adversaries but himself. We see this when the Gruffalo is initially much more interested in eating his creator than protecting him. Through the tradition of spells gone wrong (think Frankenstein, The Monkey’s Paw or The Picture of Dorian Gray), the Gruffalo is an example of why we should always carefully consider all potential outcomes of what we are trying to achieve with our actions. Ploughing ahead unthinkingly to achieve a goal we believe we want can be dangerous. The mouse confidently asserts that he is “going to have tea with a Gruffalo,” implying that were such a creature to exist they would be friends.  Although, it is blatantly obvious to us that the creature he describes would see him as prey, this is not something that occurs to the mouse until he is later confronted by the monster, which he has inadvertently wished into existence. Of course the Gruffalo immeadiately suggests a meal with the mouse, but he intends the mouse to be the meal! Be careful what you wish for! Luckily for the mouse, he is in a children’s tale and his quick thinking saves him but the story could quite easily have ended very differently!

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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