I’ve always loved dinosaurs. As a child I’d be glued to the TV watching The Land Before Time and Jurassic Park, and I lost count of the number of family outings to the Jurassic Coast just so I could comb the beaches looking for fossils – I found a few ammonites, but alas no dinosaur bones!
The fact that their time on Earth remains mostly a mystery has fuelled our fascination with them for years. So, I’m sure many collectors shared my excitement when The Royal Mint announced a new UK 50p coin series dedicated to the celebration of dinosaurs. And if you’re a dinosaur enthusiast like me, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the special design details of these coins, that pay tribute to the British discoveries at every possible turn…
What you may not know is that whilst fossils have been found on every continent on Earth, the study of dinosaurs actually started right here in the UK. In fact, over 50 to 60 species have been discovered beneath out feet.
The term ‘dinosaur’ that we use today comes from the term ‘Dinosauria’, which was coined by British Anatomist Richard Owen in a paper published in 1842. Owen was the first to realise that the remains of three creatures found in various locations within the UK shared common characteristics.
To celebrate Owen’s ground-breaking conclusion, the first three creatures that led him to his discovery have been featured on a UK 50p. Issued in collaboration with the Natural History Museum each one has been expertly brought-back to life by palaeo-artist Robert Nicholls.
Megalosaurus comes from the Greek for ‘great lizard’, and at seven to eight metres long it certainly lives up to its name! In terms of its appearance it can be compared to a T-Rex and comes from the same family of large carnivorous dinosaurs that can walk on two legs.
The Megalosaurus is the first dinosaur to ever be officially named in scientific literature. It’s thought that the earliest evidence of a Megalosaurus was found as early as the 17th century, but it wasn’t until years after it was first discovered that it was termed a dinosaur.
It was in 1824 that palaeontologist William Buckland produced the first scientific description of a Megalosaurus, based on fragments of jaw and bone found in Oxfordshire. This is the first non-aviation dinosaur to be formally named.
You’ll notice on the 50p coin that the Megalosaurus is framed by a jaw fragment, as a nod to the fossil that gave Buckland his breakthrough. Likewise, Buckland is featured, as is the year of the discovery, 1824.
It was in 1822 that Mary Mantell spied a large tooth at the side of the road in Sussex, and upon pulling over realised it belonged to an unknown creature. Her husband, Geologist Dr Gideon Mantell, noticed that the tooth was similar to that of an iguana, and later in 1825 came to call it an Iguanodon. This was the second dinosaur species to receive its name.
It wasn’t until several years later in 1834, when an explosion in Maidstone revealed fragments of an ancient skeleton that Mantell could conceptualise what an Iguanodon may have looked like.
As well as distinctive iguana-like teeth, other distinctive features of an Iguanodon include its large thumb spikes, which were possibly used for defence against predators, combined with long fifth fingers capable of grasping, allowing them to forage for food. The creatures belong to the dinosaur family of medium-sized herbivores that usually walked on two legs.
You’ll see that the 50p design credits Mantell with the discovery in 1825, and also depicts the tooth that originally sparked the naming of the creature as an Iguanodon.
And last, but no means least is the Hylaeosaurus, the third dinosaur to be officially discovered and scientifically named.
Out of the three first dinosaurs to be discovered, it is the Hylaeosaurus’ anatomy that we know the least about as little remains have been uncovered. It is thought that the Hylaeosaurus was a herbivorous, armoured creature, around five meters long with spikes along its back. Its name means ‘woodland lizard’ and is in the same family as the Stegosaurus.
It was again Dr Gideon Mantell who can be credited with the discovery of the Hylaeosaurus. The first remains of the creature were found in Sussex in 1832, and astonished Mantell because the discovery was the most complete non-aviation dinosaur skeleton known at the time. The discovery included several spikes and armour plates, for which this dinosaur is now known. But it wasn’t until 1833 that Mantell published his findings, and the creature was officially named Hylaeosaurus.
The design of the 50p again incorporates important details about the discovery of the Hylaeosaurus. You’ll see Mantell is noted alongside the year of discovery, 1833, and the initial spikes that were discovered as part of the first skeleton.
If you’re interested…
The Dinosaur 50p series has proven tremendously popular with collectors, not least because this is the first time dinosaurs have ever featured on UK coinage. That said, it’s been the Coloured Silver Proof 50ps that have stolen the show.
We’re lucky to be able to offer a select number of collectors the chance to secure the Complete Silver Dinosaur 50p Collection today. Importantly, we’ve seen precious metal sell-outs across the range, so this is likely to be your only opportunity to secure ALL THREE Dinosaur 50ps in superior Silver Proof quality. Click here to find out more >>