Like most people who keep an eye on the market for modern UK coins, I was immediately interested in late November when I spotted internet chatter about the latest newspaper article on a coin worth far more than its face value.
This time it was the fifty pence coin issued in 2011 to commemorate 50 years of the WWF (previously known as the World Wildlife Fund), featuring a collection of 50 designs on its front, including the organisation’s iconic panda emblem, 3,400,000 copies were released into circulation, a figure which, according to the Change Checker website, makes it the third most scarce 50p in circulation. (This is despite the fact that 2011 also saw the release of 29 styles of 50p coin, each in numbers fewer than the WWF release to mark sports competed at the year’s London Olympics.)
The latest over-inflated claim appeared in The Sun on November 22nd 2016 under the headline “These five 50p coin designs are worth up to £3,000… so how many have YOU
got hiding in your purse?”
In 2012, it was just such an article which boosted demand for the now-famous Kew Gardens 50p of 2009, helping propel sale prices even for circulated examples of that
coin to well over £100 before these settled to the current stable level of £40 to £60.
That was why I was interested to see what effect the latest article would have on prices for WWF coins. Unlike when the Kew Gardens coin hit, I had more than 20 examples of WWF coins waiting to be sold.
Just before the sudden Kew price surge, I’d sold a pretty scruffy version I’d found and had been pleased when this went for nearly five pounds. A week later this changed to disappointment when I saw similar coins selling for more than £100.
Eager to track whether prices for WWF coins would be similarly affected, I quickly composed a new eBay listing for a WWF 50p and made sure to include a link to the Sun
article. I then posted this listing with a buy it now price of £200 (but those interested could also submit their best offers) and I also posted a second parallel listing identical in every way except that its Buy It Now price was set at £5.
Surprisingly, the offer with the lower price attracted only about a tenth of the interest generated by its £200 twin.
My listing was not the only WWF coin to be offered at the same time; others were bid up to more than £1,000 (although I doubt these sales were concluded).
The number of times the £200 listing was viewed soon soared beyond 300 and I also saw it was being watched by more than 30 people. This gave the impression that they were waiting to put in a last minute bid but in actual fact, it is more likely they too had a WWF coin they may sell and were watching the outcome of my listing.
As the offer progressed, I was contacted by several people to give their opinion that the valuation given in the Sun article was not accurate.
Others also contacted me with offers for the coin ranging from fifty pence to £2. Each of those who contacted me was directed to the £5 listing, which was attracting only around 10 per cent of the attention paid to the more expensive coin.
Following the first week-long listings, these were resubmitted for a second week, during which I sold two WWF coins for £5.
This was a significant improvement on the performance of this coin over the previous three years when I sold ten similar circulated coins to buyers throughout the UK and one in Russia for an average of £1.30 each.
With the Kew spike in 2012, sale prices swiftly fell below £100 before stabilising at around £50 but in that example media interest quickly spread beyond a single newspaper, ensuring demand was boosted much beyond levels seen with last November’s excitement about WWF in a single publication. Overall, it would seem the effect of the newspaper story was a dramatic increase interest in buying the coin and also in selling it, resulting in an immediate fourfold increase in its market price.