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25 Dec 2019

Christmas 50p coins: which are the rarest?

Find out which festive 50p pieces fetch the most on the collectors' market

With the Royal Mint launching a Snowman 50p coin, and five new pantomime 50p coins circulating in Guernsey, we round up the rarest and most valuable festive 50p pieces of all time.

Coins and Christmas have been intertwined ever since the first sixpence was baked inside a pudding.

Now, there are dozens of coins with festive designs that some collectors are willing to pay hundreds of pounds for.

Here, we take a look at the rarest and most valuable Christmas 50p coins, and where you could find them.

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How much are rare Christmas coins worth?

The 2009 Kew Gardens 50p has a reputation as the rarest circulating coin in existence. It now regularly sells for more than £100 on eBay.

But there is a coin in circulation that fetches more than that: the 2003 Isle of Man Christmas 50p, starring the popular cartoon Snowman.

Since the coin was only ever circulated on the Isle of Man, it's very scarce and highly sought after. At a recent eBay auction, one attracted 41 bids and sold for £336.

The Isle of Man releases a Christmas coin every year and almost every design has sold at eBay auction for more than £10 recently. Some sell for significantly more, although none rival the Snowman coin.

The graphic below has the top 10 most valuable Isle of Man Christmas coins based on averages of the three most recent eBay auction sales.

Most Isle of Man coins naturally have much lower mintages than UK sterling due to the island's small population.

The 2003 Snowman coin had a mintage of just 10,000. For context, the UK coin with the lowest mintage is the Kew Gardens 50p, which had 210,000.

What other Christmas coins are there?

Currency from the Isle of Man - known as Manx currency - is not legal tender in the UK, even though it looks similar and has the exact same value. UK currency, however, can be spent on the Isle of Man.

There are other islands that have a similar rule in place - Guernsey is one of them.

This year, five pantomime-themed 50p coins entered circulation on the island. The designs were based on Aladdin, Cinderella, Dick Whittington and his cat, Jack and the Beanstalk, plus Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

These coins appear to be selling on eBay for up to £10 each, but most of the versions for sale appear to be uncirculated coins bought from sellers, instead of circulating coins found in change.

Is it worth buying rare Christmas coins?

Since Christmas coins might sell for more than most regular coins on eBay, you might be thinking about buying them as an investment.

However, experts have warned that treating commemorative coins such as these as investments is not always a safe bet.

Gerry Buddle of the London Numismatic Club - a longstanding society of coin experts - spoke to The Which? Money Podcast. Talking about the Royal Mint's output of commemorative coins, he said:

'I don't think in most cases you can say that they're going to make very much of a profit for you over what you pay, certainly not in the short term.'

Which? research has also revealed that some coin sellers misleadingly suggest their wares can be bought as trusted investments, when in reality that's not the case.

There's never any guarantee you would be able to sell a coin for more than its monetary value.

Listen to the episode here to find out more about the dark side of coin collecting.

Buying a coin because you'd like to have it, or because you think it would make a good present, is not a problem. Just don't expect to make money from it if you sell it in the future.