With the fever of the Olympics set to reach fever pitch with the start of the Games in Tokyo in the coming weeks, it may be time to check those piggy banks for rare coins.
In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, The Royal Mint launched a series of 50 pence coins to celebrate the games’ diverse events – from archery to wrestling.
They became a favorite among collectors as a wave of enthusiasm swept the country during the games in the capital.
The Royal Mint introduced 29 of them with different sports to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games.
The Royal Mint is reminding the public to look out for the rare Olympic 50p’s that were put into circulation in 2012.
Some are now classified as the rarest 50p coins in circulation, with reports of the circulating coins selling many times over their face value, due to their collectability and appeal.
Rebecca Morgan, Director of Collecting Services at Royal Mint, said: ‘Collecting coins remains a popular hobby in the UK, and it’s exciting to find special designs in your spare change.’
She adds: “We spent millions of coins in 2011 to celebrate the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place in Britain, and as the event returns we expect more people to check their change to find one.” .
“Many people who are lucky enough to find an Olympic 50p in their change will add it to their collection or keep it as a keepsake.
The 50 cent football coin is still sold on the secondary market for around £20 according to Change Checker
“As a result, they can be hard to find and collectors may search the secondary market to complete their set.”
The rarest of the coins is the football 50p coin with a mintage of just 1,125,500 with the struggling 50p coin coming a close second with 1,129,500 in mintage.
The football 50p, with the offside rule in the form of a diagram, is still sold on the secondary market for around £20 according to Change Checker’s analysis – 40 times its face value.
A quick check on eBay and you’ll find plenty of examples of coins selling for close to £15 – good returns.
Rachel Hooper, author at Change Checker said: ‘It’s definitely the rarest to look out for and tops our list of the shortest run numbers, meaning it’s even harder to find than the others.
Although the Football 50p narrowly holds the title of the rarest sport in the series, there were still over a million in circulation.
‘To keep the honorable title ‘rare’, we have to look beyond the official circulation figures of the Royal Mint.’
This is Money therefore thought it would take a closer look at the absolute scarcest Olympic-themed 50p coins ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The withdrawn watersports ‘wrong’ Olympic 50p
While there are nearly 2.18 million Aquatics 50p coins in circulation, placing the coin towards the bottom of the Change Checker scarcity index, there was an early adjustment that is incredibly rare.
The first water sports 50p coin released for the 2012 London Olympics depicted a swimmer with lines across the face covered in water.
However, this was changed very early on when the waves over the swimmer’s face were removed – but a few original coins are probably still in circulation.
“While the exact amount of the watersport’s original design remains a mystery, we know it’s not uncommon for these special coins to swap hands for nearly £1,000,” Hooper said.
The design of the water sport 50p has been modified to make the swimmer more visible.
According to the UK Coins website, only 600 of these Olympic 50p swimmer coins were issued before the design was changed.
But Philip Mussell, of Coin News magazine, believes several thousand were likely minted.
“They’re not proof coins, they’re uncirculated coins — they would have been made by a much bigger machine and so they wouldn’t have set up a big machine to produce just 600,” Mussell said.
“But I can confidently suggest that there are far fewer of these coins than there are collectors wanting one.”
As for the price, Musson believes you should normally pay upwards of £750 for one of these coins.
2009 Olympic Athletics 50p
In 2009, the former BBC television show Blue Peter hosted a competition to design an Olympic coin, about three years before the London event.
The winner, Florence Jackson, then nine years old, became the youngest person to design a coin for circulation in the UK.
At the time, it could then be purchased for £1.99 through the Royal Mint website.
But since it was the first Olympic coin minted according to Mussell, and due to its extreme rarity with only 19,751 coins minted, the price you’re paying now would probably be closer to £100.
The 2009 track and field coin is the only Olympic 50p without a 2011 mintage date.
“In the world of numismatics, these 50p coins are extremely rare,” Mussell says.
“Anything under 100,000 is very rare and anything rare will be worth more money.
The 50p circulating athletics minted prior to the games had a circulation of 2,224,000.
“The earlier 2009 version is the one everyone wants because it was the first and there are less than 20,000.
“Every collector wants one of everything and because it has a different date, people want it next to the later minted 50p athletics.”
Is now a good time to sell?
With an estimated 75 percent of the Olympic 50ps withdrawn from circulation by collectors, the arrival of this year’s highly anticipated games could trigger another national coin hunt, according to Change Checker, as everyone rushes to compete given a boost in interest in the Olympics.
If demand rises, some may argue that now is a good time to sell if you want to cash in your chips.
“Maybe there are more people collecting and searching for them right now, so it’s possible that the prices on eBay are going up a bit,” Mussell said.
But the Olympic 50ps in circulation will never be worth much money, because apart from the two extremely rare ones, the rest were all minted into their millions.
“My suggestion is, if you still like them, keep them.”
What is the advice for buyers?
Change Checker’s scarcity index can give you an indication of how sought after your coin could be.
Using eBay’s sold listings, you can get an indication of the actual price a coin is selling for in the open market, not just the prices sellers are listing them for – remember, an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay.
Mussell said: ‘My first advice is to shop around – the prices on eBay range from ridiculous to reasonable.
“My second piece of advice is: buy only because you want that particular coin, not because you want to resell it and make a profit in the future.”
Morgan added: ‘We want to ensure that collectors pay a fair price for coins, and there are several important factors to consider before committing to a price.
This can be the condition of the coin, the design, the mintage number and the metal it is made of.
‘We always recommend doing some research first, and there are many helpful resources on The Royal Mint’s website.’
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