Many thought it could never be done, running a mile under 4 minutes, but for one medical student from Harrow, the impossible feat was achieved in 1954, earning him a place in British history and forever commemorated on a fifty pence coin.
This 50p coin was introduced in 2004 by The Royal Mint to commemorate the accomplishment of Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister when he ran a mile under 4 minutes.
Read on to learn more about the history, design, mintage, rarity, and value of the Roger Bannister 50p coin.
History of the Coin
Also commonly referred to as the running legs 50p, stopwatch 50p and the 4-minute mile coin, the Roger Bannister 50p coin was designed and released in honour of Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister's accomplishment.
On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister, a 25-year old medical student at St. Mary's Hospital, broke the 4 minute mile barrier. His time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds was achieved at the Iffley Road track in Oxford and watched by around 3000 spectators. The noise of the crowd cheering him on drowned out the official time, as once they heard the official time began with a 3, they knew he'd achieved the impossible.
However, his record would soon be broken by John Landy only a month and a half later at 3 minutes and 58.8 seconds.
Despite this amazing feat, Roger Bannister became a neurologist and continued to practise medicine for 40 years after collecting the 4-minute mile record under his belt.
Design of the Coin
The Roger Bannister 50p coin, designed by James Butler, features seven sides to form a equilateral curve heptagon, also known as a Reuleaux polygon.
2004 was the 50th Anniversary of the famous race leading to the first four-minute mile by Roger Bannister. The image is the legs of a running athlete with a stylised stopwatch in the background.
The reverse side of the coin is inscribed with the lower half of a runner's legs over a stopwatch which reads 4 minutes.
There is also an inscription of 50 PENCE at the bottom of the coin.
The obverse side of the coin has the fourth portrait of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II wearing the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” diamond tiara which was a wedding gift from Queen Mary, her grandmother, in 1947.
The initials IRB are that of the artist Ian Rank-Broadley below the Queen's neckline.
This portrait was taken by Ian Rank-Broadley and is featured on all the 50p coins that were released between 1998 to 2015.
The date 2004 is included on the obverse along with the inscription
ELIZABETH II · D · G · REG · F · D · 2004
Mintage of the Coin
The total mintage of the Roger Bannister 50p coin is 9,032,500. And just like any other commemorative coin, The Royal Mint also released this coin in special finishes for coin collectors to add to their collections.
The Proof finish of the coin has a mintage of 35,020, the Silver Proof finish has a mintage of 4,924, the Silver Proof Piedfort finish has a mintage of 4,054, and the Gold finish only has a mintage of 644 coins.
But that’s not all. In 2009, the Royal Mint issued NCLT, Non-Circulating Legal Tender coins as part of a 40th anniversary of the first UK 50p coin. The 40th-anniversary set comprised of 16 different 50p designs in copper-nickel, silver and gold proof and Piedfort and this included the 2009 Bannister 50p coin.
The 2009 Fifty Pence Roger Bannister NCLT coin was number 10 of the 16 with a mintage of 1,039. Other varieties of the 40th-anniversary set include 0.925 silver coins with 1,163 issued, 0.917 gold coins with 70 issued, and 0.917 gold proof Piedfort with 40 issued.
In addition to this, twenty-five years after the 2004 50p coin, the Roger Bannister 50p design made a comeback in 2019. another Roger Bannister coin was minted, but that version was never released in to general circulation. Instead, it was released as a Brilliant Uncirculated commemorative sets to celebrate 50 years of the 50p in the British Culture Set by the Royal Mint.
Is the Roger Bannister 50p Coin Rare?
Released in 2004, the Roger Bannister 50p coin is actually a pretty common coin and is still in circulation. It has a mintage of more than 9 million coins, making it quite common. If you are a coin collector, this is not a rare coin to collect, but it is definitely a fantastic coin to add to your 50p coin collection.
How Much Is a Roger Bannister 50p Coin Worth Today?
Today, the Roger Bannister 50p coin is worth around £2.50 on platforms like eBay and Amazon. Although its value is not much, it is quite considerable considering that the coin is still in circulation and was released over 18 years ago.
The reason why this coin is not as valuable as you'd like it think given its age, is that it is fairly common and not considered rare in terms of mintage. Usually, coins that have a mintage of less than 2 million are considered rare. Since the mintage of the Roger Bannister 50p coin is more than 9 million, comparatively, it is not a rare coin. The design is great though and really captures the motion of the runner.
Where Can I Buy the Roger Bannister 50p Coin?
If you are looking for a unique commemorative coin to add to your collection or complete your 50p collection, the 2004 Roger Bannister 50p is a great option 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, the cost of postage and packaging, 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 2004 Roger Bannister 50p coin.
Are there any error versions of this coin?
Not that we know of and the Royal Mint have not confirmed any official errors. A lot of people mistake this fifty pence coin for an Olympic coin that were released to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics, where 29 sports were featured.
Bit of Trivia....
Sir Roger Bannister went on to run the infamous 'Miracle Mile' against John Landy of Finland. Landy had broke Bannister’s record about a month and a half after Bannister had accomplished beating the 4-minute time. With a record time of 3 minutes 58.8 seconds, Bannister won the race in controversial style as Landy lost a fraction of a second to look behind him to see where Bannister was.
Bannister received many honours for his achievements in sports and medicine. He was knighted in the 1975 New Year Honours, and appointed Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to sport.
He died on 3rd March 2018.