A new 50p piece released to commemorate the life of physicist Stephen Hawking may join a growing number of the coins that turn out to be worth more than their face value.
The legal tender was put into circulation last week to mark the anniversary of the death of the 76-year-old in March last year.
Collectors can buy one of the new coins from the Royal Mint in fancy packaging for £10 – but some are already being put up for sale on auction websites such as eBay for £18 each. There is also a gold proof version costing £795.
Olympic aquatic coin (left) are traded for as much as £800, while 2009 Kew Gardens for £200
Christopher Finch, of coin auctioneer and valuer Dix Noonan Webb, says: ‘Collecting modern 50p coins should be seen as a bit of fun rather than a money-making pursuit. Although fashionable at the moment, some values could fall in the future – especially when you see the sky-high prices that have occasionally been fetched at auction.’
Finch says it makes sense that rare original Olympic aquatic coins can often be worth more than their face value because of the strictly limited number produced. But he fears interest in coins such as the Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit could be overinflated because they were minted in their millions.
The coin expert points out that uncirculated coins in tip-top condition will fetch far more than those that have been passed around and used – which tarnishes the ‘brilliant’ sheen and adds dents.
He suggests it is better to purchase one from a reputable coin dealer rather than buying off a general auction website where you could be sold a fake.