The 1933 George V Penny: A Coin of Mystery and Rarity


In the world of numismatics, certain coins transcend their face value and become legendary. Among these, the 1933 George V Penny stands out as a captivating enigma—a coin that never truly saw the light of day but continues to captivate collectors and historians alike.

The Context

In 1933, the Royal Mint faced an interesting dilemma. The UK already had a surplus of pennies in circulation, thanks to the millions of Victorian and Edwardian pennies changing hands. Despite this abundance, a decision was made to strike a small number of pennies in 1933. Why? Tradition played a role.

It was customary to place complete sets of dated coins beneath the foundations of buildings constructed in that year. Thus, the mint released 1933 pennies specifically for this purpose, packaging them in sets with other coins destined to be buried beneath three buildings. A handful of these coins were also retained for the Royal Mint and the British Museums.

The Design

The design of the 1933 penny closely resembled its predecessors. On the reverse side, Britannia sat facing right, holding her trident and a shield adorned with the Union Flag motif. But during this hiatus year, when no circulating pennies were issued, the mint decided to experiment with a new portrait for King George V.

The Lavrillier Connection

Enter the seasoned artist André Lavrillier. Commissioned to create King George V’s likeness, Lavrillier produced four proofs of the coin. These proofs were presented to the “Standing Committee on Coins, Medals, and Decorations.” Unfortunately, all four designs were rejected. However, one of these proofs found its way to the Royal Mint Museum, while the other three reside in private collections.

The Rarity and Value

The 1933 penny is exceptionally scarce. Although the exact mintage remains unknown, it is believed that no more than seven were minted. Consequently, even fewer are in public hands. The scarcity, combined with its intriguing backstory, has elevated the 1933 George V Penny to legendary status.

Auction Records

In the world of coin auctions, the 1933 penny commands attention. One such specimen, displayed alongside a rare Lavrillier pattern piece, fetched a staggering £127,248. This price reflects not only its rarity but also the fascination collectors have with this elusive coin.


The 1933 George V Penny remains a testament to the intersection of history, tradition, and numismatic intrigue. Its story—of hidden treasures, rejected designs, and limited circulation—continues to captivate those who delve into the world of coins. So next time you come across a humble penny, remember that beneath its copper surface lies a tale of mystery and value.

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