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1969: New 50-pence coin sparks confusion
The seven-sided 50p coin has come into circulation to replace the 10-shilling note - but it has received a mixed reception.

It is the third decimal coin to be introduced into the British currency which goes totally decimal on 15 February, 1971, to be known as D-Day.

The British public have already got accustomed to the new 5p and 10p coins introduced last year. There are still three coins left to come - the 2p worth 4.8d, 1p (2.4d) and half pence (1.2d).

Today's new arrival, made of cupro-nickel, is the only heptagonal coin in circulation in the world, according to Lord Fiske, chairman of the Decimal Currency Board (DCB).

But some shopkeepers, bus conductors and members of the public are complaining that in spite of its distinctive shape it is too easily confused with the 10-pence coin or half crown.

One Londoner told the Evening News he accidentally left a 50p coin in a saucer full of 10ps as a tip for a waiter.

"Fortunately the waiter was dead honest and told me. But I suspect there'll be a lot of cases where that doesn't happen," he said.

Economic reasons for change

The DCB has stockpiled 120 million 50-pence coins at banks around the country ready for today's introduction of the coin, making it the largest ever issue of a new coin.

Lord Fiske said the reason for this was to replace the 200 million ten-bob notes as soon as possible.

He said the issue would eventually save the Treasury money. "The note is being replaced primarily on economic grounds. A 10s note has a life of some five months and the costs of distribution and withdrawal are comparatively high.

"Although a 50p coin will cost more to produce initially, it should have a life of at least 50 years and the metal will subsequently be recoverable."

But many people were unhappy with the new addition to their purses and pockets.

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50-pence coin
Some people complain the heptagonal coin can be confused with 10 pence

In Context
The introduction of the 50p coin prompted retired Army colonel Essex Moorcroft to form the Anti-Heptagonists who objected to the coin as "ugly" and "an insult to our sovereign whose image it bears".

Members of Parliament joined shopkeepers, bus workers, housewives and the elderly protesting the coin was too similar to the 10-pence piece.

A survey carried out by the British Market Research Bureau on D-Day itself showed 12% of the 1,040 questioned thought money had been unfairly converted, but the majority were satisfied with pricing.

Secret British Government documents published on the 30th anniversary of decimalisation revealed the concerns the Decimal Currency Board had about the changeover.

They included rejection by public transport workers and problems if the Queen died unexpectedly before the new coins were fully circulated.

A smaller, lighter 10-pence piece was circulated from 1993 and similar changes were made to the 50 pence in 1998.

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