Friday, 25 July 2008

Resulting from the random subject generator: 50p

The 50p coin has a long and tricky to recall past. Though stooped in history, many pages and chapters of the coin's early days are now lost; burnt by peoples innability to perfectly remember exact events, and my unwillingness to research anything before narrating lives purely through unintelligent imagination.

Digressions aside, for now at least, lets delve into the missing chapters until words and letters spring forth from the narrow gaps where the pages used to reside.

The 50, jingler or halfpund as its modern day users may call it, was first brought about in a time before decimalisation. The 50 was an anniversary gift associated with silver and so the Queen's coronation demi-centenary was marked with 1000 of these coins being fired into the air by 50 cannon.

The result was a horrendous massacre. 30 died from the resulting rain-silver and the short black felt hats worn by the queen's guard did little to protect them. Two things resulted from this historic mis-calculation. Firstly, the coins were reduced from their original 2 and a half foot diameter to 1 inch. Secondly, the guards hats were increased in height to over a foot. Protecting them from all further royal celebrations.

The 'biddy' was also unusual for its hexagonal sides. It was hoped that though no-one needed these coins, they would be used more if they served a practical purpose. Carpenters and architects were quick to take up the new moneys as they were frequently perplexed by 60 degree issues. Now they had an easily pocketable guide to the 60 degrees in an attractive silver finish.

The coin's decorations have also changed from their humble beginnings. To start with, the coins were not obvious as to their value. 50p in those days equated to about 3 and one half happencrown shilling, which is what an average farmer would earn per week. To help the proles understand what the funny shiny thing was, the following text was written on the coin's "tail" side:

"Here lies our beloved value. Buried beneath its shiny surface ever under the wrath of our Lord God is his blessings and value. He blesses us with not just 1 shillings worth of love, but over a crown hapen worth. That's a lot. Its like he's hugging you right now. Please use this coin to buy things of virtue, such as corn on the cob or play size crucificies, so that he will smile on us instead of setting fire to our toes. For ever and ever, the End."

This was why the original coin was so big. Each coin was hand written by a monk scholar in molten silver, and took about 2 days to make.

On resizing the coin to the new "fun size 50", the text was changed to have more concise "worth 1 sheep".

When the world wars arrived like a noisy neighbour to our doors, the government requested that all coins be returned for the war effort (in exchange for 1 sheep). Many thousands of coins were in circulation by that point, and extra sheep had to be flown in from Greenland to cover the shortage, but eventually the coins were recalled in their entirety where they were melted down to make tanks.

At the end of the war, it was decided that the coins should be introduced, along with round numbers. When rationing finally stopped in 1982, the coins were released in a special commemorative edition showing the queen smoking a pipe to symbolise the end of tobacco rationing.

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