New Release - the Hylaeosaurus 50p

Author: Victoria Toothill - Guest Writer

Published: 1 Jun 2020

Last Updated: 29 Jul 2020


Today, the Royal Mint released their highly anticipated Hylaeosaurus 50p coin. The coin is the final 50p piece in the three-coin Dinosauria series. Some collectors were dismayed when earlier this year the Hylaeosaurus coin was delayed by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The Dinosauria set was due to complete, with the release of the third and final coin, in April. Frustrations were made worse by the fact that collectors, who had been encouraged to buy the coins as a set, had received their Megalosaurus and Iguanodon coins but were still waiting for their Hylaeosaurus 50p a month after they had expected it. However, delays were all in the name of a good cause. In addition to the expected delays caused by lockdown, which initially called for all none vital workers to stay at home, the Royal Mint also became part of the national effort to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the NHS. A welcome move after the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) stated that a third of physicians working in high-risk settings have reported running short of long-sleeved gowns or full-face visors. The Royal Mint has been producing visors ever since and have managed to produce 100,000 of the essential pieces of equipment each week. 

An Impressive Discovery

So, with some of the countries’ workers on their way back to a ‘new normal’ today, the Royal Mint is one of the first to celebrate with the release of the promised Hylaeosaurus 50p. The coin, like the rest of the series, celebrates the work of one of the very first palaeontologists. The man behind the Hylaeosaurus was Dr Gideon Mantell. He was an Obstetrician by trade and at one point was delivering anything up to 300 babies a year! However, his real love was geology and the hobby became a fascination with fossils. At first, he was sceptical about his Hylaeosaurus discovery. The remains had come to light when a quarry rock face was blasted with gunpowder and were rather a mess. However, after buying the 50 jumbled pieces from a local fossil dealer, Mantell managed to assemble them into one skeleton. The find was the most complete non-avian (not a bird) dinosaur skeleton of its time and blew previous finds out of the water as they consisted of only single bones.

Along with the other dinosaurs featured in this collection (the Megalosaurus and Iguanodon) the Hylaeosaurus was a British discovery and the wealth of fossils on the British Isles was studied closely by Sir Richard Owen. Owen was a renowned biologist and, after his study of the three newly discovered creatures, he coined the word ‘Dinosauria’ to describe the clade. He borrowed from ancient Greek the terms deinos (meaning 'terrible, potent or fearfully great') and sauros (meaning 'lizard or reptile') to create this new name. By the way, for those who don’t know, which included us 10 minutes ago, a clade is a group of animals that contains a common ancestor and all of its descendants. This group of creatures, commonly known as dinosaurs, existed between 243 and 201.3 million years ago when they were wiped out by a mass extinction event. The mystery surrounding their demise and their generally impressive nature, some dinosaurs reached lengths of 39.7 meters (130 feet) and heights of 18 m (59 ft) and were the largest land animals of all time, has meant they have stayed a popular with the public. This means that even today, 178 years after they were identified by Owen in 1842, the study of dinosaurs is very well funded and new discoveries are often reported on mainstream news.

Reverse Design

Designed by palaeo-artist Robert Nicholls with guidance from the Earth Sciences Department of the Natural History Museum, the reverse of the coin features a front view of the Hylaeosaurus that perfectly displays the creature’s spiny armouring. The dinosaur dominates the centre of the coin. Its short sturdy legs support a body that, including armouring, could have weighed up to 2 tonnes! Along the left-hand side of its body, 9 impressive, armoured spines can be counted. Whereas, on the right only 8 are visible. This could simply be because the head of the creature is turned to the right of the coin blocking some spines from view. On the other hand, there have been suggestions (including by Owen himself) that the spines were asymmetrical. The head of the Hylaeosaurus is small in comparison to its huge body and seems long and thin. At the tip you can see a beak which would have been used to eat low-lying vegetation. At the feet of the dinosaur we see the fossilised spines from Mantell’s discovery. These are the only parts of the coin that are coloured on the colour printed versions of the coin. Above the creature, the inscription ‘HYLAEOSAURUS’ arches across the top of the coin. Mesozoic plants appear on either side of the dinosaur and finally, the inscription ‘MANTELL 1833’ curves around the bottom.

Obverse Design

The obverse of the coin bears the fifth portrait of The Queen. Designed by Royal Mint engraver, Jody Clark, the fifth definitive UK coin portrait features a bust of Queen Elizabeth II wearing the King George IV State Diadem. This portrait shows an 88-year-old Queen with deep wrinkles around the eye and mouth areas. The Queen wears Diamond Jubilee drop pearl earrings and her chin is lifted slightly, which has been said to indicate that she is looking positively towards the future. The truncation is shaped into a sweeping curve. This portrait was introduced in 2015 and continues to be used today.

The inscription reads: ELIZABETH · II · D · G REG · F · D · 50 PENCE · 2020.

Date Variety Mintage
2020 Hylaeosaurus 50p Gold 350
2020 Hylaeosaurus 50p Silver 3,000
2020 Hylaeosaurus 50p Silver with Colour 7,000
2020 Hylaeosaurus BU with Colour 50p 50,000
2020 Hylaeosaurus BU 50p UNLIMITED

This range introduces an entirely new type of coin. The Dinosauria collection is the first to have a brilliant uncirculated (BU) coin with colour. The colouring process is usually reserved for the higher value silver proof versions of coins. In addition to this, the coloured BU coin is equipped with augmented reality technology. Another first for the Royal Mint.

The Hylaeosaurus 50p Gold Proof

Despite being released only six hours ago, the gold proof version of this coin is already 80% reserved on the Royal Mint website. The gold proof coin is selling at £1,020, which may seem steep but with a mintage of only 350 pieces it is rare even for a gold proof coin. Some gold proof varieties have mintages of over 1,800. As always, the gold coin is finished to proof standard and should be absolutely perfect. It comes in a polished wood presentation box and is accompanied by an authentication certificate and information leaflet. All of this is packed together in a box bearing illustrations based on scientifically accurate reconstructions.

The Hylaeosaurus 50p Silver Proof

It has been some time since a plain silver proof has been issued of an illustrated coin. Since the 2016 Peter Rabbit that began the practice of printing silver proof coins with colour, the Royal Mint has tended to produce illustrated coins in only silver with colour format, seeming to keep the traditional silver proof for coins that bear only text or less detailed icon type images. Well, for the Dinosauria series they are bringing the original back! With a mintage of only 3,000, the colourless silver proof will be rarer than its coloured companion. Despite this, it is still a shade cheaper than the coloured coin at £60. It is presented in a black case and comes, with both information leaflet and authentication certificate, in the illustrated box. Already 65% reserved, there is clearly still a demand for this style of coin.

The Hylaeosaurus 50p Silver Proof With Colour

Always popular with collectors, colour printed silver proof versions of coins tend to sell quickly. The Hylaeosaurus 50p is no exception to this. Just six hours after release, 95% of the 7,000 silver proof coins with colour are already reserved. Selling for £65, the coin comes in an acrylic display case that shows enlarged illustrations of the plants that appear on either side of the Hylaeosaurus on the coin. A handwritten label of the name of the dinosaur runs across the top of the block. This seems to be the handwriting of the coin’s designer Robert Nicholls, which also appears in the information leaflet that supplements the coin. As always, the coin should have an authentication certificate.

The Hylaeosaurus 50p BU With Colour

As promised, the brand-new coloured BU coin comes with augmented reality technology. Once collectors have their coin, they can scan the packaging into the Royal Mint's Activate app and find out many additional facts, clips and images. This a new technology for the Royal Mint and has been used for the very first time across the Dinosauria range. Like the plain BU version, this coin comes embedded into the illustrated information leaflet. The 50,000 coloured BU coins are exclusive to the Royal Mint, so, you won’t be able to find one anywhere else until they start showing up on online auction sites. At £20 a coin, some cynics may think it a little gimmicky but it’s an interesting addition to the collection nonetheless.  

The Hylaeosaurus 50p BU

Embedded into its enlightening information leaflet complete with illustrations from designer Robert Nicholls, the brilliant uncirculated version of the Hylaeosaurus coin is a great addition to any collection. However, you do have to remember to check whether or not the coin you are ordering will come in this presentation leaflet. Unlike the coloured version, the plain BU coin is not exclusive to the Royal Mint and if ordered from other coin dealers may arrive in their packaging, which is often a disappointment in comparison to the Royal Mint official presentation. If you buy from Chards, it will definitely come in the official Royal Mint packaging and it will also cost you a little less. We are selling the Hylaeosaurus 50p BU for just £9, saving you a pound on the Royal Mint price!

Further Reading

If you would like to know more about some of the most collectable coins in modern numismatics, we recommend the following:

The Most Collectable 50 Pence Coins

Olympic 50p - The Error Coin You Won't Find in Your Change

Is My Fifty Pence Rare?

Or for rare and old coins check out our coin collecting guides!

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