Brief History of the Olympics and Paralympics 

The Olympics

The modern Olympic games were inspired by the ancient Olympic games, held from the 8th century BC to 4th century AD. Celebrated every four years, these ancient games were primarily a religious festival to celebrate the god Zeus. There were six main sports in the competition including boxing, chariot racing, and wrestling. As the Romans gained power in Greece, the Olympics eventually ended. It wasn’t until 1896 that it made its return for the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. There were 241 athletes representing 14 countries in 9 sports. 

As the Olympics grew in popularity, eventually the International Olympic Committee expanded the Games to include winter activities. The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924 in Chamonix, France. There were 16 events held with 258 athletes competing from 16 nations. 

Logo of the Olympic Games

The Paralympics

Even though there were already sports clubs for athletes with impairments since the late 1800s, it wasn’t until 1948 that the first competition for impaired athletes was organised. It was led by Dr. Ludwig Guttman, a doctor in the spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England. In an effort to promote the rehabilitation of WWII soldiers, Dr. Guttman held a competition for wheelchair athletes called the Stoke Mandeville Games. The year was chosen to coincide with the 1948 Olympic Games.

Eventually, these games would transform into the Paralympic Games with the first Paralympic Games held in Rome in 1960. After the Summer Games in 1988 and the Winter Games in 1992, the Paralympic Games have taken place in the same cities and venues as the Olympic competition. It’s now the second largest sporting event in the world.

For his work and contributions to the Paralympics movement, Dr. Guttman would later be appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1950 and then promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1966 for his work.

The logo of the Paralympic Games, and of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) logo

The logo of the Paralympic Games

Logo of the 2012 London Summer Olympics

Logo of the 2012 London Summer Olympics

About the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics

Held during the summer of 2012, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have become the largest sporting event ever held in the United Kingdom. The Games of the XXX Olympiad, better known as the 2012 Summer Olympics or the London 2012 Olympics, was held 27 July to 12 August 2012. The 14th Summer Paralympic Games, known as the London 2012 Paralympic Games, were held a few days after from 29 August to 9 September 2012. The Olympic games invited around 10,500 athletes from all over the world to compete in 26 sports while the Paralympics hosted 4,237 local and international athletes to compete in 20 sports. The Royal Mint produced approximately 4,700 medals for both events. 

London 2012 Olympic Medals

London 2012 Olympic Medals by the Royal Mint

London 2012 Paralympic Medals

London 2012 Paralympic Medals by the Royal Mint

About the London 2012 Olympic Coins 

The Royal Mint and the Olympics

The Royal Mint’s involvement in promoting the Olympics started as soon as the official handover was televised at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. That year, the Royal Mint issued a 2-pound commemorative coin to celebrate the handover. Then, to celebrate the countdown to the Olympics, a series of four 5 pound coins were issued, starting in 2009 until 2012. 

“It was a real surprise to win. I chose the high-jump because I’d watched it on TV before and thought it looked fun.”
Florence Jackson, nine-year-old designer of the Athletics 50p

The Olympics 50p Coins: The Most Popular Olympics Coins

The Royal Mint’s involvement in promoting the Olympics started as soon as the official handover was televised at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. That year, the Royal Mint issued a 2-pound commemorative coin to celebrate the handover. Then, to celebrate the countdown to the Olympics, a series of four 5 pound coins were issued, starting in 2009 until 2012. 

The series with the most popularity is the 2011 Olympic 50p coin collection. Representing 29 Olympic and Paralympic sports, the coins’ designs were drawn from 30,000 entries in a public competition in early 2009. Winners included a delivery driver, a radiologist, a bank clerk, and the winner of the Blue Peter competition, nine-year-old girl Florence Jackson. In speaking with the Daily Mail, she said, “I am so excited. It was a real surprise to win. I chose the high-jump because I’d watched it on TV before and thought it looked fun. It was amazing to visit the Royal Mint and see my picture turned into a coin. I can’t wait to see it in my pocket money!”

This collection is the first time in the Royal Mint’s entire history that the public has designed coins for national circulation. It’s also the first time that a child and a teenager have designed coins. 

Designers of the 2012 Olympic Coins by Geoff Caddick/PA

Competition winners of the Olympics 50p with their designs

The Royal Mint’s director of commemorative coins, Dave Knight expressed his excitement for the competition winners. “Every one of our twenty-nine winners is making history. Their coins will become treasured mementoes of the biggest sporting event to happen on UK shores in a generation, and will be around for generations to come. Every coin captures the spirit, excitement and passion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In isolation each is a work of art, together they are an inspirational portrait of a sporting phenomenon. The Royal Mint is immensely proud to be part of London 2012 and we’re thrilled that this competition has enabled ordinary people to play a part too.”

Other Collectible Versions of the Olympic 50p Coins

There are other versions of the Olympic 50p coins. The hardest one to find is the Gold version because only one was created and given to the designer of each coin. For more public consumption, the Royal Mint also released Silver Brilliant Uncirculated and Brilliant Uncirculated versions for more serious fans and coin collectors.

“Every one of our twenty-nine winners is making history. Their coins will become treasured mementoes of the biggest sporting event to happen on UK shores in a generation, and will be around for generations to come.” 

Dave Knight, Royal Mint Director of Commemorative Coins

Circulation, Brilliant Uncirculated, Silver Brilliant Uncirculated: What’s the Difference?

For those new to collectible coins, here’s a quick introduction of what the different versions mean.

Circulation vs Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) coins

Circulation coins are also known as base metal coins, minted in cupronickel (copper-nickel) alloy. Brilliant Uncirculated coins are made of the same cupronickel alloy, but because they are meant for collectors, the coins keep their original mint luster. Luster refers to the shininess created after the minting process. They’re also minted using hand-polished dies, struck twice, but they are machine-fed, not hand-fed like Proof coins. They’re also known in shorthand as ‘BU’, ‘BUNC’, ‘Uncirculated’, or sometimes ‘Mint State.’ 

Silver Brilliant Uncirculated Coins

Silver Brilliant Uncirculated means that instead of the cupronickel alloy, the coin is made of 925 sterling silver. This means that 92.5% of the coin is made of pure silver while the rest is an alloy like copper, zinc, or nickel. They’re struck twice using the same hand-polished dies and machine-fed like the BU coins. 

Royal Mint Producing Coins by Yui Mok:PA Wire

Royal Mint Producing Coins

Source: Yui Mok:PA Wire

The Value and Popularity of the London 2012 Olympic Coins

You can find the coins in your change…

Typically, the only Olympic coins you’ll possibly find in common circulation are the 2011 Olympic 50p coins and the Olympic Handover Ceremony 2-pound coins. The higher denomination coins were produced to be souvenirs and not released into circulation. These special coins usually come in a presentation box and certificate of authenticity. 

…right?

Even though the Olympic 50p coins and the Handover 2-pound coins were released into circulation, this does not mean that they’re easy to find. It’s been estimated that about 75% of total mintage of the entire Olympics 50p coin series has been collected and removed from circulation. The mintages of each coin vary from 1,125,500 for the Football 50p coin to 3,345,500 for the Archery 50p coin. (A complete list of the Olympics 50p coins with their mintages is in a later section.)

Are the Olympic 50p coins valuable or a good investment?

It depends on who you’re talking to and what you have in your hand. If you have a common circulation Archery 50p then, because of its larger mintage and its condition, you might be able to get around £2.00 for it. However, if you have a Brilliant Uncirculated version of the Archery 50p, you could get £5.75. In the same vein, for a Football 50p, you can get £16.47 for a circulation coin and £37.00 for a BU version. 

If you’re looking collecting Olympic coins as a good investment, keep in mind it’s difficult to predict what it will fetch in the future. As we’ve said in our Beatrix Potter Guide, you won’t know the price of a modern commemorative coin for decades, not years. If you want a ‘guarantee’ on investment, collect the Silver Brilliant Uncirculated Proof Olympic 50p coins (and if you can somehow get a Gold Proof version, even better). That way you’ll get the bullion value or the value of the precious metal at the market’s current price. 

Complete List of Commemorative London Olympic Coins

• 29 – Olympic Sports 50p Coins
• 2  – Olympic Games Handover Ceremony 2 Pound Coins
• 4 – London 2012 Countdown 5 Pound Coins
• 18 – ‘Celebration of Britain’ 5 Pound Coins
• 2 – Olympic and Paralympic 5 Pound Coins
• 1 – London Olympic Games 10 Pound Coin
• 9 – ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ Gold Coins (denomination varies between £25 and £100)
• 2 – ‘Kilo Coins’ (denomination varies between £500 and £1000)

Image of Judo 2011 UK 50p coin

The Judo 50p

Image of the Archery 50p

The Aquatics 50p

Image of Triathlon 2011 UK 50p coin

The Triathlon 50p

The Rarest and Most Expensive Olympic 50p Coins 

The Two Rarest Olympic 50p Coins

Other than the Gold Proof version, there are two Olympic 50p coins that get the title ‘rarest Olympic 50p coin.’  The first is the special 2009 Blue Peter Olympic 50p, designed by a nine-year-old girl, Florence Jackson. Contributing to the rarity of the coin is its mintage. There were only 100,000 Blue Peter 50p coins released in special presentation packs. The other factor is the year printed on the coin. Even though the Blue Peter 50p was released in celebration of the 2012 London Olympics, it has the year ‘2009’ stamped on the obverse side, making it the only Olympic 50p with this date. However, when you’re looking for Blue Peter 50p coins, be careful of the year — there were also 2.2 million Blue Peter Olympic 50p coins released in 2011 as well. 

The other Olympic 50p coin that extremely hard to find is the Aquatics 50p, also known as the Swimming 50p. It was initially released with waves drawn over the swimmer’s face. However, that design was removed from circulation and replaced with a design that allowed the face to be seen more clearly. There is estimated to be only 600 of this ‘minting error’ coin — a great find for any collector!

Comparison of Swimming 50p with and without waves over face

Left: Original design with waves over swimmer’s face

Right: Updated design with waves removed

The Most Expensive Olympic 50p Coin

Because of the rarity and the unknown exact amount released, the Swimming 50p with the waves over the face is the most expensive Olympic 50p. There have been reports that this error 50p has gone for up to £3,000! However, based on eBay records (as of May 2019), the highest price paid for one of the error Olympic Swimming 50p coins was still an amazing £800.

How to Find and Sell Olympics Coins

Olympic 50p Coin Mintages

  • Football – 1,125,500
  • Wresting – 1,129,500
  • Judo – 1,161,500 
  • Triathlon – 1,163,500
  • Tennis – 1,454,000 
  • Goalball – 1,615,500 
  • Shooting – 1,656,500 
  • Taekwondo – 1,664,000 
  • Handball – 1,676,500 
  • Pentathlon – 1,689,500 
  • Rowing – 1,717,300 
  • Gymnastics – 1,720,813 
  • Table Tennis – 1,737,500 
  • Basketball – 1,748,000 
  • Sailing – 1,749,500
  • Wheelchair Rugby – 1,765,500 
  • Hockey – 1,773,500 
  • Weightlifting – 1,879,500 
  • Cycling – 2,090,500
  • Fencing – 2,115,500 
  • Volleyball – 2,133,500 
  • Badminton – 2,133,500 
  • Equestrian – 2,142,500 
  • Boxing – 2,148,500 
  • Boccia – 2,166,000 
  • Canoeing – 2,166,500 
  • Aquatics (Swimming) – 2,179,000
  • Athletics (Blue Peter) – 2,224,000
  • Archery – 3,345,500 

If you’re interested in getting your own Olympics 50p coins, there are two ways to do it. If you live in the UK, the first method is to just always check your change. However, while this might be somewhat successful if you were looking for Beatrix Potter 50p coins, the Olympics 50p coins have been out in circulation for much longer, and therefore, there has been more time for collectors to keep them. There’s still a chance though! Here’s the full list of the 29 Olympic 50p coins with their mintages from lowest to highest. It’ll give you an idea of how many might still be out there.

The second way is for those not in the UK, want a non-circulated version, or just want a more certain method to get your Olympic 50p coin. For these circumstances, the Royal Mint website is the easiest way to buy them, but since it’s been almost a decade since the coins were minted, the Royal Mint does not stock Olympic 50p coins anymore. There is, of course, always eBay, but there are other ways to get coins without worrying about fakes. These are reputable coin dealers like Chard, and of course, Chancery Collection.

If you’re interested in selling coins, Chard will only look at gold and silver coins. You can also reach out to coin collector communities and forums online to find local coin dealers in your area to buy or trade your Olympics 50p coins.

Fake Olympics 50p Coins 

If you’re looking for those rare Olympics 50p coins or just interested in non-circulated versions, be careful when looking online, especially on eBay. Keep an eye on the description and pictures to see how much detail they tell about the coin. A reverse-image search will help you figure out if the seller is using a stock photo or another seller’s image on their own listing. The actual coin that you’ll get might be a completely different one or just a fake. 

For the Swimming 50p coins, be especially careful when looking for the error coins. You’ll know it’s a fake when you weight the coin and it’s underweight (under 8g), the diameter is off (the correct diameter is 27.3mm), or the thickness is wrong (correct thickness is 1.78mm). Some even say the word ‘COPY’ underneath the neck of the bust of the Queen. On better quality fakes, the obverse side with the Queen has a more frosted finish and her ear and eye are not well rendered. The lettering tends to be thinner than the real 50p as well. 

If you’re unsure about your 50p, contact the Royal Mint. They’ll be able to examine the coin and will usually give you a letter of authenticity if it is real. 

Overview of Olympics 50p Coins (In Alphabetical Order)

Note: All eBay prices are current as of May 2019. All Olympics 50p coins can be found in Brilliant Uncirculated finish and Silver Brilliant Uncirculated finish along with the ones in circulation. 

Image of Aquatics 50p

2011 Aquatics 50p (Swimming 50p)

This is one of two coins designed by Jonathan Olliffe. It features a swimmer submerged in water, the face unobstructed by lines. There is a very hard to find error version of this coin as well, with the waves going over the swimmer’s face. On eBay, the highest price for a non-error version of the coin is £2.00, presumably circulated. 

Find out more >

2011 Archery 50p

Designed by Piotr Powaga, the coin has a hand pulling back an arrow. As mentioned earlier in the guide, on eBay, the highest price paid for any version of the coin was £5.75 for a Brilliant Uncirculated version. 

Image of the Archery 50p

2009 and 2001 Athletics 50p

The Athletics 50p was designed by Florence Jackson, the then nine-year-old winner of the Blue Peter competition. As mentioned earlier, there are two versions of the coins, one released in special presentation packs in 2009 and one released into circulation in 2011. The highest price sold for any Athletics 50p was for a 2009 version that went for £59.00. Apparently, the original owner had used it, putting it into circulation.

2011 Badminton 50p

This coin shows a shuttlecock and ten different moves in badminton to its right side, designed by Emma Kelly.  On eBay, the highest price paid was £16.55 for a Brilliant Uncirculated version presented in Stamp Cover packaging. 

Image of Badminton 50p Coin
Image of Basketball 50p coin

2011 Basketball 50p 

Sarah Payne, a toy designer, captured the movement of a basketball player going past his opponent, leading up to an attempt at a slam dunk. In the background is the texture and pattern of a basketball. On eBay, the highest price paid was £16.00 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin with Certificate of Authenticity. 

2011 Boccia 50p

One of three coins featuring Paralympics sports, this Boccia 50p shows a player throwing a ball. It was designed by Justin Chung. The highest price paid for any Boccia 50p was £22.49 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated version. 

Image of Boccia 50p coin

2011 Boxing 50p 

Shane Abery’s design for the Boxing 50p showed a pair of boxing gloves in front of the ropes of the boxing ring. Buyers have paid up to £7.00 for a circulation version of the coin on eBay. 

2011 Canoeing 50p

The coin features a canoe on a slalom course, designed by Timothy Lees. The highest price paid for any version, on eBay, of the Canoeing 50p is £15.20 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin with Certificate of Authenticity. 

Image of Canoeing 50p coin

2011 Cycling 50p

Designed by Theo Crutchley-Mack, the coin evokes the feeling of a cyclist moving in a velodrome. eBay buyers have paid £21.00 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated version of the coin. 

2011 Equestrian 50p

Thomas Babbage’s winning design features a horse and rider jumping over a fence as seen from below. The highest price for any Equestrian 50p was £16.73 for a Brilliant Uncirculated coin packaged in a special stamp cover pack. 

Image of Equestrian 50p coin

2011 Fencing 50p

The Fencing 50p coin features two figures fencing, with one landing a point on their opponent. It was designed by Ruth Summerfield, a radiologist. The Silver Brilliant Uncirculated version has the highest price, £21.08, for any Fencing 50p on eBay. It also comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. 

2011 Football 50p (Offside Rule 50p)

Designed by Neil Wolfson, a sports journalist, the Football 50p design has come under criticism for its seemingly incorrect explanation of the offside rule. Because of its controversy and low mintage, it’s one of the hardest ‘non-error’ Olympic 50p coins to find. The highest price on eBay for a single uncirculated Offside 50p coin was £37.00. 

Find out more >

Image of Offside Rule 2011 UK 50p coin

2011 Goalball 50p

Goalball is one of the three Paralympic sports to be featured in the Olympics 50p. Designed by Jonathan Wren, the coin shows the sweeping motion of the player getting ready to release the ball into the opponent’s goal. Buyers have paid £10.00 for a Brilliant Uncirculated version of the coin, still sealed in its presentation packaging. 

2011 Gymnastics 50p 

The second Jonathan Olliffe design, the coin features a gymnast twirling a ribbon. The highest price paid on eBay was for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin for £20.00. 

Image of Gymnastics 50p coin
Image of Handball 50p coin

2011 Handball 50p

The Handball 50p is one of two designs by Natasha Ratcliffe, a sculptor and part-time chef. The design shows a player throwing a ball mid-air with the handball court in the background. The highest sold bid was for £20.22 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin with Certificate of Authenticity. 

2011 Hockey 50p

Designed by Robert Evans, the Hockey 50p shows two hockey players rushing after the puck. Buyers have been willing to bid up to £18.00 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin with Certificate of Authenticity. 

Image of Hockey 50p coin
Image of Judo 2011 UK 50p coin

2011 Judo 50p

The coin is designed by David Cornell and shows one opponent performing a judo throw on the other. eBay buyers have paid £29.99 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin still sealed in its original packaging. 

Find out more >

2011 Modern Pentathlon 50p

Daniel Brittain’s design is a montage of the five sports that make up the pentathlon: shooting, swimming, fencing, equestrian, cross-country running. The highest winning bid for a single coin on eBay was £8.99 for a Brilliant Uncirculated coin still in its packaging. 

Image of Pentathlon 50p coin
Image of Rowing 50p coin

2011 Rowing 50p

The Rowing 50p features a two-person boat surrounded by Olympic-related words and phrases. It was designed by graphic designer David Podmore. eBay buyers have paid up to £18.00 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin still in its packaging and with a Certificate of Authenticity.

2011 Sailing 50p

The Sailing 50p is designed by Bruce Rushin and features three sailing boats in front of a nautical chart of the coast of Weymouth, where the sailing event was to take place. The highest price sold for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated Sailing 50p coin was £16.00 with Certificate of Authenticity.

Image of Sailing 50p coin
Image of Shooting 50p coin

2011 Shooting 50p

Designed by Pravin Dewdhory, the coin shows a figure shooting and breaking an object into pieces reminiscent of the London Olympics logo. The highest price for a single Shooting 50p coin was £12.99 for a Brilliant Uncirculated version in a Stamp Cover presentation pack. 

2011 Table Tennis 50p

Alan Lindsdell’s winning design shows two table tennis bats colliding in front of a table and net while the ball flies past. The highest sold price for any single Table Tennis 50p was £19.36 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin with Certificate of Authenticity. 

Image of Taekwondo 50p coin

2011 Taekwondo 50p

David Gibbons’ design shows two fighters in full gear locked in combat. For a single uncirculated coin, eBay buyers have paid £18.75. 

2011 Tennis 50p

Designed by Tracy Baines, the Tennis 50p feature a simple tennis net and a tennis ball. Buyers have paid up to £16.89 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin with Certificate of Authenticity on eBay. 

Image of Tennis 50p coin
Image of Triathlon 2011 UK 50p coin

2011 Triathlon 50p

The Triathlon 50p is designed by Sarah Harvey and presents a montage of Triathlon’s three sports. The highest price on eBay for any single version of the Triathlon 50p is for a circulated coin for £19.99. 

Find out more >

2011 Volleyball 50p

Designed by Daniela Boothman, the coin features three figures reaching for the beach volleyball. eBay buyers have paid up to £19.20 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated version with Certificate of Authenticity. 

Image of Volleyball 50p
Image of Weightlifting 50p coin

2011 Weightlifting 50p

Rob Shakespeare’s design for the Weightlifting 50p shows a simple outline of a weightlifter in the starting form of a lift. The highest price for any coin was £12.50 for a Brilliant Uncirculated in a Stamp Cover presentation pack. 

2011 Wheelchair Rugby 50p

The Wheelchair Rugby 50p is Natasha Ratcliffe’s second winning design. One of the three Paralympic designs, the coin features an image of an athlete in the middle of moving the ball. The highest price for a Wheelchair Rugby 50p is £18.00 for a Silver Brilliant Uncirculated coin with Certificate of Authenticity. 

Image of Wheelchair Rugby 50p coin
Image of Wrestling 50p coin

2011 Wrestling 50p 

Roderick Enriquez’s design presents two wrestlers in the middle of a stadium. The highest price paid for a single Wrestling 50p was for a believed to be an uncirculated coin for £21.00.