FIFTY years ago today, the 50p coin came into circulation to replace the 10-shilling note - but it received a mixed reception.

The 50p is 50 years old?
The seven-sided coin is celebrating its golden jubilee, but it had a challenging start as it was the third decimal coin to be introduced into the British currency ahead of decimalisation on February 15, 1971 - known as D-Day. The public were still grappling with the 5p and 10p and were yet to be introduced to the 2p, 1p and 1/2p.

It wasn’t popular?
Aside from the public having to adjust to the spate of new coins, many also felt that despite the 50p’s distinctive shape - the only heptagonal coin in the world - the new arrival, made of cupronickel, was too easily muddled up with the 10p or half crown coins. The British press were not fans. One headline described it as a “monstrous piece of metal”.

Why was it introduced in the first place?
By the late 1960s, 10-shilling banknotes were being used so intensively they lasted only a few months. In comparison, the new coin would have a life-span of at least 50 years. It was struck bearing the decimal denomination of 50p but it circulated for the first couple of years as a 10-shilling piece. With the adoption of the decimal system, the value switched to 50 new pence.
And the shape was by design - it was easier to roll smoothly in vending machines.

There was a campaign against it?
Retired Army Colonel, Essex Moorcoft, formed the “Anti-Heptagonists” organisation, branding the new coin “ugly” and “an insult to our sovereign whose image it bears.”

But the original coins endured?
The originals - featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with a figure of Britannia on the reverse with a shield, olive branch and trident sitting alongside a lion - stayed in circulation until 1998. They were then replaced with a re-sized smaller version.

There have been lots of designs over the five decades?
Over the decades, the 50p has celebrated British achievements, events and milestones, with many commemorative 50ps introduced and limited editions changing hands for hundreds of pounds.
In 1998, a 50p featuring a design of clasped hands in a circle - to represent the nine members of the European Community - marked the 25th anniversary of the UK joining the EU. Also that year, a coin featuring a pair of hands against a pattern of radiating lines marked the 50th anniversary of the NHS.

To mark the occasion?
Several special coins have been reissued, including a 50p marking Kew Garden’s 250th anniversary. The Kew coin was introduced 10 years ago and remains a collector’s item as only just 210,000 were made, making it the rarest 50p in circulation. Almost all of them are in private hands now and the chances of finding one in your change are slim.

And 50p went a lot further 50 years ago?
Those were the days - it could buy you a round of drinks in the pub or even stretch to a trip to the cinema.