Is the 1998 NHS 50p rare?
When looking at the rarity of a coin, a good rule of thumb is whether you regularly get it in your change or have ever got it in your change. The 1998 NHS 50p is still in circulation today so it is possible to check your change and find one. The likelihood of finding one though is fairly small and finding one is considered rare.
In recent years, it can be said the 50 pence piece has become the most collected coin in the world. Since the 50p launched in 1969 as the first coin in the new decimal system and the world's first seven sided coin (an equilateral curved heptagonal), it has become the most collected coin ever, so it is collectable.
The 50p coin was introduced in 1969 alongside the 5p and 10p during decimalisation. In 1971, decimalisation was complete and the pound was equal to 100 new pence.
Before this, one pound was equal to 240 pence as each pound was subdivided into 20 shillings and each shilling was worth 12 pence.
In 1997, the specification for the 50p changed to the size and feel we're familiar with today. The NHS 50p coin was smaller than the pre-1997 version, reducing it's diameter from 30.00mm to 27.30mm and it's thickness from 2.5mm to 1.78mm. It is also lighter at 8.00g compared with the earlier 50 pence coins that weighed a hefty 13.50g.
One thing to consider also is that this coin has been in circulation since 1998, so at the time of writing that's 24 years for collectors to take the coin out of circulation and add it to their coin collection. According to the Royal Mint's official mintage figures, a total of 5,001,000 NHS 50p coins, the cupro-nickel version, entered general circulation back in 1998.
The other commemorative 50p issued in 1998, also designed with the new specifications was the EU 50p.
So is a mintage of 5,001,000 low in comparison with other commemorative 50p coins?
The quick answer is no, it's sort of middle of the road but it's not that simple. When looking at the commemorative coins, we have the 1992 / 1993 Dual Date 50p with a mintage of 109,000 and the Kew Gardens 50p with a mintage of 210,000, and both of these are the rarest 50p coins according to the mintage figures and so at one end of the scale. In contrast, we have the 2017 Benjamin Bunny 50p coin, with a mintage of 25 million and the 2017 Peter Rabbit 50p coin with a mintage of just under 20 million, both issued as part of the Beatrix Potter 50p series, at the other end of the scale.
So a mintage of 5 million for a 50p coin that has been in circulation for nearly 25 years starts to look a lot smaller especially when you think about all the collectors taking them out of circulation. Not just that, coins get lost, left in piggy banks or damaged in transit, so it becomes rarer year on year and so more sought after.
All this being said, it is a commemorative fifty pence coin that is worth a lot more than face value and worth holding onto.
So how much is the NHS 50p worth?
Many people are drawn to the NHS 50p coin because it's a unique piece of British history and one of the older commemorative coins in circulation. Since 1998, it has become very popular with coin collectors and NHS enthusiasts.
Moreover, this fifty pence piece holds significant historical value and had a re-surge in popularity recently as one of the commemorative coins in the UK, due to the heroic efforts of our NHS workers during the pandemic. But as we said, even though this coin is two decades old, you may still see it in your change today.
As always, the value of any coin depends on its condition and how rare it is. NHS 50p coins are somewhat rare and have been avidly sought after by collectors,
Their value ranges from about £3 to £4 for a coin in poor condition, and a coin in very good circulated condition (with some original shine and most of the design details intact) could easily get you between £4 and £6 excluding postage.
The History of NHS 50p
As mentioned, before 1997, UK 50p coins weighed 13.5g and had a diameter of 30mm.
During the 1990s the government decided to make 5p and 10p coins smaller, so the introduction of a smaller version of the 50p coin was also muted.
The expected change took place in 1998 with the new 50p measuring 27.3mm in diameter and weighed 8g. So as we said, the 1998 NHS 50p was one of the first commemorative coins among the new 50 pence pieces with the new specifications. Again, this makes the coin unique and desirable.
The Design of the Coin
Featuring a design by David Cornell, the reverse of the 1998 NHS 50p coin shows a pair of hands with light radiating from them, representing health and care, with the words Fiftieth Anniversary at the top of the lines. Around the edge, the inscription ‘NHS’ can be found 5 times in total at equal distances. The design pays tribute to the hope that the NHS brought to many following its creation in 1948.
The coin was designed by David Cornell, who is most famous for his Diana Princess of Wales Memorial £5 coin design.
The obverse side displays the fourth portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II with a crown by Ian Rank-Broadley. The inscription around the picture says ELIZABETH·II·D·G REG·F·D·1998.
Overall, the design of NHS 50p is very striking and will always be sought after by collectors. Not just because it is a beautiful, unique coin but because of what the NHS stands for as an organisation and for all the heroes who work for the NHS.
If you find one in your change, be sure to keep hold of it as the value is likely to increase as they become less common as the years go by.
Where Can You Buy the NHS 50p coin?
We sell this coin in circulated condition and you can buy it here. Online market places such as eBay and Amazon have coins available, but as always, check out the seller, the listing description, photos and do as much research before buying.
The Royal Mint has an online shop where you can buy various coins in circulated, uncirculated, silver proof and gold proof condition, but as it has been so long since this coin was released, they no longer stock the 1998 NHS 50p coin.