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2000 Fifty Pence Gold Proof British Libraries 150th Anniversary

British Public Libraries Commemorative Design

In 2000, fifty pence coins were issued featuring a special design commemorating the 150th anniversary of British Public Libraries.

Public Libraries in the UK

Up until the end of the nineteenth century, the provision of free libraries depended wholly on the generosity of benefactors like Dick Whittington who bequeathed a library for public use by the citizens of London. In the main, books were hired from circulating libraries, tobacconists and street hawkers. But Edward Edwards was to change all that. Educated by the Mechanics Institute, a league catering for working men eager for self education, he campaigned passionately for free libraries and his articles so impressed William Ewart, then MP for Dumfries, that an attempt to establish "libraries freely open to the towns in Great Britain and Ireland" was put before Parliament. Despite opposition, their combined efforts bore fruit when in August 1850 the Public Libraries Act received Royal Assent and allowed local councils to fund a "Public Library or Museum of Art and Science or both". For the first time, ordinary people could enjoy free access to the world's storehouse of knowledge and great literature.

Today the public library service lies at the very heart of every community in the United Kingdom, underpinning education and enriching the quality of life. It is perhaps the biggest cultural revolution the nation has seen, a revolution that began with the Public Libraries Act of 1850 and one that is still in full swing. The Royal Mint, in conjunction with the Library Association, is therefore proud to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Act with a commemorative fifty pence coin. Its special reverse design, created by Mary Milner Dickens, depicts the turning pages of a book above the pediment of a classical library building, the facade decorated with CDs to give a modern perspective. The obverse features the portrait of the Queen by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, FSNAD.

Public Library Milestones

  • 1850 Public Libraries Act.
  • 1857 Braille books appeared.
  • 1877 The Library Association was founded.
  • 1884 Microfilm was used by libraries for the first time.
  • 1919 London University opened the first school of librarianship.
  • 1964 Public Libraries Act obligated every council to provide a library service.
  • 1967 The first computerised circulation system was introduced in libraries.
  • 2000 150th Anniversary of the first Public Libraries Act.

Obverse - Fourth Portrait

All 2000 coins carried the fourth portrait obverse design by Ian Rank-Broadley.


The reverse design depicts turning pages of a book above the pediment of a classical library building, its facade covered with CDs to give a modern perspective, and was created by sculptor Mary Milner Dickens.


DiameterWeightAlloyGold Content
27.3015.50 grams.91660.4600 Troy Ounces

DateDescriptionIssue LimitMintage Official Issue Price
2000150th Anniversary of British Libraries2,000710£249

Notes on Table

Issue Price = Official Royal Mint issue price.

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Obverse of 2000 British Libraries Centenary Fifty Pence Gold Proof

Obverse of 2000 British Libraries Centenary Gold Proof Fifty Pence

Fifty Pences Index

Reverse of 2000 Libraries Fifty Pence Gold Proof

Reverse of 2000 British Libraries Centenary Gold Proof Fifty Pence

2000 Fifty Pence Gold Proof in Box

2000 British Libraries Centenary Fifty Pence Gold Proof in Presentation Box


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