100 Greatest Modern World Coins Series: Great Britain 1954 Penny

If we know one thing about numismatics it’s that the business, like many different facets of life, includes errors or accidents that turn into desires years down the road when you are talking about collectability. All the Mints across the world have encountered their fair share of happy accidents, something that sounds so incredibly paradoxical. This includes the Royal Mint across the pond, which brings us to our next coin focus in the 100 Greatest Modern World Coins series. Along with authors Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, we will take an increased look at this top 20 pick featured in the Whitman publication and get to know this one-of-a-kind coin.

#19 - Great Britain 1954 Penny

After the death of her father, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in late 1952. She would then first appear in portrait in 1953 and the Royal Mint would produce 1,308,000 circulation strike pennies and 40,000 Proofs following her coronation (the first to be televised). However, the economy following World War II was still suffering in the United Kingdom and the demand for pennies was nonexistent. With this cocktail of events, the Mint was satisfied with the current circulation strikes and therefore no new pennies would be struck in 1954.

While no new strikes would be done that year, the Royal Mint would continue with experimental die testing of patterns for the issue. They were still experiencing what they called “ghosting.” This meant that the size of the queen’s portrait as well as the high relief detail was being transferred to the reverse die with the effect of a “ghost” image of the queen over the seated Britannia. Of the five specimens tested, the British Museum has two while the Royal Mint owns the other three.

However, an accident occurred when experimenting and that is when the 1954 penny ended up mixed in with the stock of 1953-year dated pennies. It then found its way into circulation to which a collector found soon after its release. British numismatist C. Wilson Peck would then come to own it by 1955. It was then sold to American Q. David Bowers in 1963 and sold again in the late 1960s for £10,000. By the early 1990s, the penny sold for £23,000 (around $30,500 US dollars). The latest estimated value for the coin is $100,000.