With the Royal Mint producing limited quantities of special edition coins over the years, rare coins in the UK are a thing.
So what could your small change be worth? From an Olympics 50p coin minted to celebrate London 2012 right back to a 1917 George V Sovereign issued over a century ago, not every coin is worth its face value.
Some commemorative coins are worth much more, and this can apply to a new pence 2p or modern fifty pence piece as much as to a coin that predates decimalisation or goes back to before the first world war.
As there are limited quantities of such coins in circulation, coming across one could mean you’re quids in. So which are the most valuable?
This guide will take you through all you should know about rare British coins that are much more valuable than their denomination might suggest.
Whether you’re already interested in selling a rare coin via eBay auction, are wondering why an error coin can be sought-after or want to know what that 2009 Kew Gardens 50p piece you’re hanging onto might be worth, this post is for you.
So read to to find out everything you need to know about Queen Elizabeth II coins, the range of Olympic 50p coins produced for London 2012 and the current estimated value of that Peter Rabbit or rare football coin your child so treasures.
Spoiler alert – some rare coins can be worth thousands of pounds, so it could be well worth the effort of becoming a committed change checker!
- A Brief History of British Coins
- Why are rare UK coins valuable?
- 21 Rare UK Coins That Are Worth Keeping
- 1. 1917 George V Sovereign
- 2. 2018 Peter Rabbit 50p coins
- 3. 1983 Queen Elizabeth 2p
- 4. 2005 Guy Fawkes £2
- 5. 2011 WWF 50p
- 6. 1839 Una and the Lion £5
- 7. 2002 Commonwealth Games £2
- 8. 1996 Euro football £2
- 9. 2017 Isaac Newton 50p
- 10. 1936 Edward VIII coins
- 11. 2008 Elizabeth II 20p
- 12. 1703 Queen Anne Vigo Five Guinea
- 13. 2009 Kew Gardens 50p
- 14. 1933 George V penny
- 15. 1344 Edward III Gold Florin
- 16. 2015 Elizabeth II silver 2p
- 17. 1973 EEC 50p
- 18. 2013 Elizabeth II £20
- 19. 2015 Big Ben £100
- 20. 1994 Bank of England anniversary £2
- 21. 2011 London Olympics 50p
- Rare coins UK – FAQs
- How to make money from rare coins in the UK
A Brief History of British Coins
Coins were first used in various locations across the world during ancient times, dating back to the centuries BC (Before Christ).
In the East, the Chinese used miniature gardening implements to serve the purpose now fulfilled by coins, while the small, bronze prehistoric tools and rings excavated in Western Europe are likely to have been used in the way we would use cash today.
Ancient Egyptians used golden bars and then as a form of currency during the 4th century BC.
It was, however, the people of Lydia – an ancient region where Turkey and the Middle East are now- were credited with the invention of the coin during the 6th century BC.
As with other currencies, British coins were made mainly from silver until early in the 20th century.
In 1971, the UK switched to decimalisation, swapping pounds, shillings and pence for pounds and new pence.
Major changes since then have included the introduction of 20p coins in 1982, the introduction of the £1 coin in 1983 and the ditching of halfpenny coins in 1984.
The £2 coin came into circulation in 1997, while in 2008 all coins worth under £1 underwent a major redesign.
Why are rare UK coins valuable?
In general, coins are worth more money precisely because they are rare.
Although the Royal Mint may make huge numbers of all British coins, special editions are only released in limited amounts and at certain times.
Thus even coins currently in circulation can be rare. You may not need that George V sovereign to make money when you sell coins.
Any UK coin minted in limited numbers may become a sought-after collectors’ item.
These are the main reasons why UK coins may be worth far more than their face value. In a nutshell, it all boils down to how rare they are.
The most valuable types of coin
Limited edition coins
A lower number of coins equals rarity, and there’s definitely a price tag attached to that.
Coins minted incorrectly
Believe it or not, mistakes and imperfections are worth more – simply because they are more rare.
If the coin forms part of a wider mintage that created a commemorative set, then it will be more desirable as committed collectors will wish to get hold of every piece.
A UK coin in good nick is usually more valuable than one that actually looks like it was minted decades ago.
When it comes to old coins in particular, finding one in great condition is very unusual.
21 Rare UK Coins That Are Worth Keeping
Get given one of these with your change and these coins could be worth ‘a bob or two’.
Here are the Royal Mint’s rarest coins worth far more than mere monetary value might suggest.
1. 1917 George V Sovereign
This sovereign tops Royal Mint’s list of valuable coins.
Although many were made, this gold sovereign predates the first world war. Lots of them apparently ended up in the US to help pay off debt racked up during the conflict.
The Royal Mint stopped minting these gold coins in 1917. The war killed off the trend for using gold, as its use in coins was then seen as both impractical and an inappropriate use of public funds.
In 2012, an example of this rare coin was auctioned for £11,000.
2. 2018 Peter Rabbit 50p coins
The Beatrix Potter coin collection has become sought after, and apparently the Jemima Puddle-Duck coin is the hardest to get hold of.
As such, it could be worth more than 20 times the original 50p value.
According to the Royal Mint, the coins featuring Peter Rabbit himself and Flopsy Bunny are also rare, and could sell for a similar sum.
3. 1983 Queen Elizabeth 2p
An error is also responsible for the fact that a specific version of this two pence coin is one of the rarest low denomination pieces around.
From 1983, coins began to show their face value rather than ‘new pence’ on the back, but a batch minted that year was accidentally issued with the old wording.
Such examples have apparently sold for over £500 each.
4. 2005 Guy Fawkes £2
Another mistake regarding the coin features mas made here, and this time it involved a simple spelling error.
Or did it? Rumours vary, with some saying that part of the word just wore away over time.
Anyway, some coins appear to be printed around the edge with ‘Pemember, Pemember’ instead of the word being typed out correctly with an ‘R’.
Whatever the reason, this version may sell for around £5 to £15.
5. 2011 WWF 50p
The commemorative coin made to celebrate 50 years of the World Wildlife Fund is a favourite among coin enthusiasts, and could thus go for about £100.
6. 1839 Una and the Lion £5
This coin is seen as one of the most attractive coins ever made, and only several hundred were produced.
On the back, there is a William Wyon portrait of Queen Victoria – portraying Una – as she directs the British lion.
The rare nature of this coin is increased by the slight variations that exist in terms of small matters such as the edging, metals used and even the decorative detailing on the Queen’s crown.
7. 2002 Commonwealth Games £2
It’s the Northern Ireland variant of this coin that is the most desirable to collectors, as less of these were produced.
The unique coin features include the fact that the flag is embossed on the NI version. If you find one, it could sell for about £30.
8. 1996 Euro football £2
With a little over 2,000 produced in total, this £2 coin is a pretty rare beast. Just the date and a little circle for each of the 16 participating nations decorate this rare piece resembling a football.
If you do find one, it could fetch you around £800.
9. 2017 Isaac Newton 50p
This 50p coin could be worth around £60, as a relatively small number were made. It’s always a good idea to look at any 50p coin more closely!
10. 1936 Edward VIII coins
Any Edward VIII coin is valuable due to rarity.
This is because Edward famously abdicated after under a year on the throne so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
As only trial pieces were ever minted, coins featuring the successor of George V are extremely rare.
The Royal Mint themselves managed to source and flog a sovereign for £1 million, setting a new record in the process.
10 brass threepence Edward VIII prototypes were also made, and one is said to be worth around £45,000.
11. 2008 Elizabeth II 20p
Again this is one of the rarest coin examples due to an error during its mintage.
In 2008 around 250,000 dateless 20p coins were released, making them rare enough to be worth around £50 to £100.
12. 1703 Queen Anne Vigo Five Guinea
This gold coin was made following the 1702 Battle of Vigo Bay during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Only a few were produced, and one was auctioned in New York for over £700,000.
13. 2009 Kew Gardens 50p
The Royal Mint only made about 2,100 of these 50 pieces, and this rarity rapidly reduced numbers even further as they were removed from circulation by the collectors many went directly to.
A commemorative edition of this coin was produced in 2019, as part of the Royal Mint’s ’50 Years of 50p’ collection.
The original was made to celebrate Kew Gardens’ 250 year anniversary.
Estimates regarding the original coin’s value vary, but it could sell for somewhere between £100 and £200.
The Royal Mint says the Kew Gardens 50p coin is the rarest in circulation today.
14. 1933 George V penny
Only six – or maybe seven – 1p pieces were struck by the Royal Mint in 1933, so it is one of the rarest coins ever. In fact there is doubt over the actual number produced.
It’s known that three coins went under building foundations and an equal number to national collections, but some records are said to suggest a seventh was minted and went into general circulation.
This coin has an estimated worth of over £70,000.
15. 1344 Edward III Gold Florin
A gold florin from 1344 was salvaged from the depths of the River Tyne during the mid 19th century – along with two other old coins. A florin was equal to six shillings.
In 2006, this coin was apparently sold to a private collector for over £450,000.
16. 2015 Elizabeth II silver 2p
Not, this was not a mintage in silver for collectors; again this coin was made in error, when a 10p blank somehow ended up being printed as a 2p coin. This apparently sold for around £500.
17. 1973 EEC 50p
If you’re not old enough to know what EEC is an acronym for, it’s European Economic Community, the EU’s earlier incarnation.
Around 5,000 of the commemorative coins celebrating Britain’s membership are said to have been issued by the Royal Mint, with many given directly to politicians and other senior figures.
It’s the silver version that’s worth more cold hard cash, fetching around 3,000 times more than their plain metal counterparts.
The latter are said to sell for just a few quid.
18. 2013 Elizabeth II £20
Yes, you read that right. A coin with a value of £20 was made in 2013 to celebrate the Queen becoming the longest serving monarch ever.
If you do have one, it could be worth up to two times the original £20 value.
19. 2015 Big Ben £100
A coin worth £100 was produced in 2015, depicting Big Ben on the front. As it’s no longer available from the Royal Mint, this coin may go for around £150.
20. 1994 Bank of England anniversary £2
In 1994 the Bank of England become 300 years old, and just 1,000 gold commemorative coins were made to mark the anniversary.
Being crafted from pure gold, it’s not an easy one to miss, so it’s unlikely that any will remain in general circulation. If you do strike gold, though, it could make you around £2,500.
21. 2011 London Olympics 50p
The rarity and therefore value of each Royal Mint Olympics 50p coin varies a lot.
As a set, they may well sell for more, too, as it takes the legwork out of finding them for any avid collector.
According to the Royal Mint, some of the most sought-after examples include the triathlon, judo, goalball, tennis, wrestling and shooting 50p coin. As well as the following.
Some examples of the Aquatics 50p coin were redesigned after issue, as originally, the waves printed on it obscured the swimmer’s face.
If you did come across one of the first batch, it could fetch you as much as £1,500. There are no waves across the face on this more valuable version, so it’s easy to spot.
The Olympics football 50p coin explains the offside rule in pictorial format and is said to be worth as much as £150. Even though over a million of this particular fifty pence were minted.
Rare coins UK – FAQs
What is the rarest coin in the UK?
The most reliable source of information regarding the UK’s most rare examples surely goes back to where they came from – the Royal Mint. You can find out what they have to say here.
What old coins are worth money UK?
As mentioned above, some coins that date back a long way are worth a lot more than others.
Valuable examples include the 1917 gold sovereign, the 1933 penny coin and any featuring Edward VIII, as well as several even older issues.
Which coins are rare and worth money?
From a new pence 2p to a reinvented Olympic coin, a coin issued in error is often more worth more money as there are so few of them in circulation.
All values are estimated, and only worth what a collector is willing to pay.
A rare coin in good condition will always be more treasured – particularly if it forms part of a collection like the Olympic 50p editions.
How to make money from rare coins in the UK
If this guide has whetted your appetite for making a quick buck, the first step is simply to look out for those coins still in circulation.
When you strike it lucky, there’s nothing to stop you selling it via an eBay auction.
The site itself may in fact give you a good idea of the coin’s current value, or you can use a specialist app or site like Change Checker.
Whether you come across an Olympic Games 50p among your change or have some silver and bronze stashed away that turns up a more unusual two pound coin, it’s certainly worth keeping those peepers peeled for that limited issue penny or 20 pence coin.
(Editors note: Hat tip to Tracy’s daughter who allowed us to raid her coin collection to share original photos of her collectors 50p coins including WWF, Olympic and Peter Rabbit coins).