British Commemorative Coins
The Royal Mint has been producing British commemorative coins since 1935. Before decimalisation in 1971, crowns (five shilling coins) were used as commemorative coins. More recently, 50p and £2 coins have been used, as well as 25p and £5 coins. £5 and 25p coins are only used for commemorative coins.
Circulated and Uncirculated Coins
Coin collectors, or numismatists, will define coins as circulated or uncirculated. Circulated coins are those that have been put into use, whereas uncirculated haven't. Uncirculated coins are in the same condition as when they were struck at the mint. They have a distinctive sheen and no trace of wear. The same coin will vary greatly in value depending on whether it has been circulated or not.
Pre-Decimalised Coins, Crowns and 25p Coins
Only six different commemorative coins were issued before 1971: these include crowns issued to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of George V, the coronation of Elizabeth II and the Festival of Britain. After decimalisation, crowns became 25p coins and they were issued to commemorate royal anniversaries like the Silver Jubilee in 1977.
Commemorative 50p Coins
Important landmarks in British history are celebrated with 50p coins. Possibly the largest selection of these are the coins produced in 2011 to celebrate the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. There are 29 versions and each one depicts a different Olympic discipline, such as fencing, volleyball and wheelchair rugby.
Commemorative £5 and £2 Coins
Whilst £5 coins are produced solely as commemorative coins, they are legal tender. Most £5 coins commemorate important royal events, like the Queen's 80th birthday in 2006 and the Queen Mother's 100th birthday in 2000. However, events such as the Millennium and the anniversary of historic events such as the Battle of Waterloo have also been commemorated.
£2 coins are mostly used to celebrate historic anniversaries, like the signing of the Magna Carta, the fire of London or the abolition of the slave trade. Between 1986 and 1996 seven non-circulated commemorative £2 coins were produced.