A Guide to Commemorative Coins
A great way to recognise and celebrate significant events, commemorative coins are designed to mark historical occasions. They are desirable, and often valuable, coins that collectors and keen numismatists admire for their unique and carefully crafted designs.
Whether you’re a dedicated enthusiast or new to the world of coin collecting, our guide will help you understand what commemorative coins are, how much they’re worth and explore some of the most popular commemorative coins in history.
For more information on special coins, take a look at our guide to keepsake coins and learn about why they make such unique keepsakes.
What are commemorative coins?
Commemorative coins are special coins that are created by The Royal Mint to celebrate or mark a significant historical event and recognise people or places of importance. Only a specific number of these coins are created and only for a short period of time, making them different to coins in general circulation.
Collecting or owning these types of rare coins is a great way to own a piece of history, especially as they can increase in value over time and be passed down to future generations.
Types of commemorative coin
Commemorative coins are usually grouped into three categories, the common everyday currency, non-circulating tender and tokens or souvenirs.
In the UK, commemorative coins in common everyday currency include the 50p, £1 and £2 coin. Non-circulating coins, like Sovereigns or modern £5 coins are considered as collectibles as their value is higher than their legal tender price.
Finally, token or souvenir commemorative coins are also known as ‘proof’ coins and due to their limited numbers, are highly sought-after by collectors.
How much are commemorative coins worth?
The value of commemorative coins depends on the type of coin, how rare it is and how many are produced.
These special coins are often minted in different materials too, so the value of coin largely depends on the type of metal used too. For example, coins cast in a base metal, like copper, compared to a precious metal, like gold, will have a different value.
Aside from price, many people value commemorative coins for more than just their weight in gold, especially if part of a collectible set or to mark a significant occasion in history. Many coin collectors covet commemorative coins as they are rooted in history and are unlike any other coin in circulation.
How can you tell if a coin is commemorative?
Due to the nature of their designs, it’s fairly easy to tell a commemorative coin from a generic coin in circulation. This is mostly because of the detailed designs that depict a significant person, place or event that are engraved into the coin. These rare and special coins are carefully created by artists and engravers who take time to consider each design.
Can you use commemorative coins as payment?
In the UK, all coins made by The Royal Mint as considered as legal tender, meaning they can be used as currency. However, only coins in general circulated can be spent in shops and used for trading, which means that it’s unlikely that commemorative coins will be accepted. Some banks do accept these special coins, however it’s not common and is pretty unlikely.
Popular commemorative coins
Now you know where commemorative coins come from and how they can be used, you might like to learn about some of the popular commemorative coins with historical significance. We’ve listed several coins to show how coveted they are and how some have come to be so highly sought after.
King Charles III
Most recently, a commemorative coin to mark the coronation of King Charles III was minted in several denominations, including 50p and £5. This coin features one of three designs on the reverse, with the portrait of the King on the obverse and was the first official crowned coinage portrait of the new King.
To celebrate the coronation, our collection of limited edition King Charles III coins allow you to own a piece of history and be reminded of this significant event time after time.
1935, George V Silver Crown
This was the first commemorative coin ever struck in the UK and was created to mark the silver Jubilee of George V. It features an art-deco inspired design of the iconic St. George and the Dragon design and is commonly known as the ‘Rocking Horse’ crown.
1965 Churchill Coin
Sir Winston Churchill was commemorated with a British coin following his death in 1965. As one of the most famous figures in British history, The Royal Mint created a unique and special Crown coin to honour the Prime Minister. The coin features a portrait of Churchill, with his name engraved at the top right of the coin. It’s considered to be an unconventional coin portrait due to the way that Churchill seems to emerge from the surface of the coin itself.
There are many notable commemorative coins that have been created, and alongside those listed above, some are sought after for their rarity, like the Kew Gardens 50p. In 2009 this coin was designed to mark the 250th anniversary of the gardens and with only 210,000 coins ever created, it’s considered to be a rare and special coin. Despite its face value of 50p, these coins sell for around £150, although some have known to sell for £700.
Similarly, the 1917 George V Sovereign is regarded as the rarest Sovereign of the 20th century, with only 5-10 coins believed to exist in the world.
Our guide on the rarest coins in the world features some extraordinary coins that are coveted for their incredible history and are often acquired as investment pieces.
Whether you’re an avid collector or starting out in the world of coin collecting, there’s no better way to begin than with a commemorative coin that marks a significant person or event that holds meaning to you. Through coin collecting or owning a piece of coin jewellery with meaning, you’re able to keep a piece of history that is unique and desirable for years to come.