With Olympics fever set to reach fever pitch in the coming weeks with the Tokyo games starting, it could be time to check those piggy banks for rare coins.
In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, The Royal Mint launched a range of 50p coins to celebrate the diverse events of the games – from archery to wrestling.
They became a favourite among collectors as a wave of enthusiasm swept across the country during the games in the capital.
The Royal Mint introduced 29 of them featuring different sports to celebrate the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
The Royal Mint is reminding the public to look out for the rare Olympic 50p’s that were released into circulation back in 2012.
Some are now being classed as the rarest 50p coins in circulation, with reports of the circulating coins selling for many times more than their face value, due to their collectability and appeal.
Rebecca Morgan, director of collector services at Royal Mint, said: ‘Coin collecting remains a popular hobby in the UK, and it’s exciting to find special designs in your change.’
She adds: ‘We issued millions of coins in 2011 to celebrate the Olympics and Paralympics being in Britain in 2012, and as the event returns we expect more people will check their change to try and find one.
‘Many people lucky enough to find an Olympic 50p in their change will add it to their collection, or retain it as a keepsake.
The football 50p coin still sells on the secondary market for around £20 according to Change Checker
‘This can make them hard to find, and collectors might look on the secondary market to complete their set.’
The rarest of the coins is the football 50p coin which has a mintage of only 1,125,500 with the wrestling 50p coin coming a close second with 1,129,500 in mintage.
The football 50p, which features the offside rule in the form of a diagram, still sells 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 the coin selling for closer to £15 – a good return.
Rachel Hooper, author at Change Checker said: ‘It’s definitely the rarest one to look out for and tops our chart as having the smallest mintage figures, which means it is 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 one million of those struck for circulation.
‘To hold the honourable title as “rare”, we must look beyond the official Royal Mint circulation figures.’
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 aquatics ‘error’ Olympic 50p
Although there are close to 2.18million Aquatics 50p coins in circulation, placing the coin towards the bottom of Change Checker’s scarcity index, there was an early adaptation which is incredibly rare.
The first aquatics 50p coin released for the London 2012 Olympics depicted a swimmer with lines across the face being covered in water.
However, this was modified very early on removing the waves passing over the swimmer’s face – but there are still a few of the original coins likely in circulation.
‘Although the exact quantity of the original aquatics design remains a mystery, we know it’s not unusual for these special coins to exchange hands for close to £1,000,’ said Hooper.
The aquatics 50p design was modified to make the swimmer more visible.
According to the website UK Coins, only 600 of these Olympic 50p swimmer coins were ever issued before the design was changed.
But Philip Mussell, of Coin News magazine, believes there are likely to have been a few thousand minted.
‘They are not proof coins, they are uncirculated coins – they would have been made by a much larger machine and therefore, they would not have set up a large machine just to produce 600,’ said Mussell.
‘But I can confidently suggest that there are far fewer of these coins than there are collectors who want one.’
As for the price, Musson believes that you should typically expect to pay upwards of £750 for one of these coins.
The 2009 athletics Olympic 50p
In 2009, former BBC television show Blue Peter ran a competition to design an Olympic coin some three years ahead of the event held in London.
The winner, Florence Jackson then aged nine, became the youngest person to design a coin for circulation in the UK.
At the time, it could then be snapped up for £1.99 via the Royal Mint website.
However, since it was the first Olympics coin to be minted, according to Mussell, and due to its extreme rarity with only 19,751 minted, the price you are likely to pay now would be closer to £100.
The 2009 dated Athletics coin is the only Olympic 50p without a 2011 mintage date.
‘In the world of numismatics these 50p coins are extremely rare,’ said Mussell.
‘Anything with a mintage under 100,000 is very rare and anything that is rare is going to be worth more money.
‘The circulated athletics 50p minted in advance of the games had a mintage of 2,224,000.
‘The earlier 2009 version is the one that everybody wants because it was the first one and there are fewer than 20,000 of them.
‘Every collector wants one of everything and because this has a different date, people want it alongside the later minted athletics 50p.’
Is now a good time to sell?
With an estimated 75 per cent of the Olympic 50ps having been removed from circulation by collectors, according to Change Checker, the arrival of this year’s long-awaited games might spark another nationwide coin hunt as everyone rushes to compete given a boost in interest in the Olympics.
If there is an upsurge in demand, there may be some who argue that now might be a good time to sell if you’re looking to cash in your chips.
‘There may well be more people collecting them at the moment and looking for them so it’s perhaps possible prices on eBay will creep up slightly,’ said Mussell.
‘But the Olympic 50ps circulated are never going to be worth a lot of money because barring the two extremely rare ones, the rest were all minted in their millions.
‘My suggestion is if you’re still enjoying having them, keep hold of them.’
What’s the advice for buyers?
Change Checker’s scarcity index can provide you with an indication of how sought after your coin might be.
Using eBay’s sold listings you will be able to get an indication of the actual price a coin is selling for on 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 bit of advice is to shop around – the prices on eBay range from ridiculous to sensible.
‘My second bit of advice is only ever buy because you want that particular coin, not because you want to sell it on and make a profit in the future.’
Morgan added: ‘We want to ensure collectors pay a fair price for coins, and there are several key factors you should consider before committing to a price.
‘This can include the condition of the coin, its design, mintage figure and what metal it’s made of.
‘We always recommend doing some research first, and there are a lot of useful resources on The Royal Mint’s website.’
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