The work of early fossil hunting pioneer Mary Anning is the theme of the Royal Mints latest 50p series

A huge pleasure to see the Royal Mint’s ‘Tales of the Earth’ sequence continue after last years three coins featuring early dinosaur discoveries in the UK. Is was the discoveries and writings of Sir Richard Owen that inspired the 2020 set – this time it is the increasingly famous Mary Anning. Some of that new-found fame comes from the movie ‘Ammonite’, which, sadly, had her achievements in the field of palaeontology take a back seat to a fabricated ‘woke’ sexual story. Never let science and the very real trials of a woman in those times get in the way of a good ‘boddice ripper’, eh guys? The reality of what she did is so much more impressive and important to science.

Three of her discoveries make up this 2021 set, one a flying reptile, two marine. While Dimorphodon and Plesiosaurus will follow later in the year, it is the Ichthyosaur, Temnodontosaurus, that starts us off. A huge reptile, perhaps exceeding 12 m (40ft) in length, they’re known for the animal kingdoms largest eyes (20cm / 8″) and were active hunters of large vertebrates.

Paleoartist Bob Nichols again does the honours here, and in our view at least, has done a terrific job. The animal looks well proportioned and dynamic, aided by the ‘ripples’ in the background. The skull found by Mary and her brother Joseph, sits in the foreground. The art for the other two coins is equally well done, so another fine trio this year.

The same formats on offer, all in the 50p seven-sided style. A proof sterling silver coin is available coloured or uncoloured, and there’s a half-ounce 22kt gold variant. Both silver versions are available in base metal as well, with the coloured one having a limited mintage of 50,000 pieces, but weighed down with a 100% price hike over the uncoloured effort. One of the best prehistoric nature series out there, aided by proper Paleoart and relying on the expertise of the National History Museum. It’s how the subject should be done on a coin.


This is the second coin collection in The Royal Mint’s ‘Tales of the Earth’ series celebrating the awe-inspiring ancient creatures discovered here in Britain. The next coin collection shines a light on one of Britain’s greatest fossil hunters – Mary Anning. The first release in the Mary Anning Collection features Temnodontosaurus, one of the largest types of ichthyosaur and an apex predator that once roamed the ocean that covered much of southern Britain. Other coins in the collection will Anning’s discoveries of Plesiosaurus and Dimorphodon.

Renowned British paleo-artist and designer of the first Tales of the Earth commemorative coin collection, Robert Nicholls, has brought all three of Mary Anning’s discoveries back to life. Based on current understanding and the expert guidance of Sandra Chapman of the Earth Sciences Department at the Natural History Museum, each of the coin design’s created by Robert are a scientifically accurate reconstruction of the creatures and the environment that they existed in. By using the latest colour printing techniques, the intricate characteristics of each of the prehistoric marine reptiles have been captured to illustrate accurately how these creatures looked like on Earth millions of years ago, making them appear dynamic and adding a new level of visual fidelity to the coins.


Clare Maclennan, Divisional Director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint said, “It is an absolute pleasure to continue the popular Tales of the Earth commemorative 50p coin series in conjunction with the Natural History Museum. The next collection in the series celebrates fossil hunter and pioneering palaeontologist Mary Anning, with three coin’s featuring Anning’s astonishing discoveries of Temnodontosaurus, Plesiosaurus and Dimorphodon.

In addition to each of the coin designs being a scientifically accurate reconstruction of the creatures and the environment they lived in, we have combined augmented reality technology with the coins to bring the animals to life through animation and allow people to explore the details of the prehistoric marine reptiles from the comfort of their home.”

Clare Matterson, Executive Director of Engagement at the Natural History Museum said: “We are thrilled to continue working with The Royal Mint on the Tales of the Earth series. The Mary Anning Collection celebrates a pivotal figure in the understanding of palaeontology, important contributions to science that were rarely acknowledged in Mary’s lifetime. It is fantastic to see Mary celebrated in such a special way in 2021.”

Mary Anning was born in Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1799 and spent her entire life in this small seaside town on England’s south coast. Anning’s father Richard had a large family to support and, in order to supplement his modest income as a carpenter, he set up a curiosity table outside their home selling fossils to tourists. It was at this point that she developed an interest in helping her father and amongst the curiosities they discovered were ‘snake stones’ (ammonites), ‘devil fingers’ (belemites) and ‘verteberries’ (vertebrae).

Aged only 12 or 13, Anning made her first discovery, an articulated skeleton of an ichthyosaur, a type of marine reptile that once roamed Jurassic seas. From this point forward Anning made a number of astonishing discoveries making her the greatest fossil hunter of the Victorian era.

Designed in conjunction with experts at the Natural History Museum, the augmented reality brings the mighty beasts to life from the comfort of home. To access the augmented reality feature, customers will need to visit The Royal Mint website to unearth exclusive content.

BELOW: The first trio of coins in the Tales of the Earth sequence

DENOMINATION £0.50 UKP £0.50 UKP £0.50 UKP
COMPOSITION 0.925 silver 0.925 silver 0.9167 gold
WEIGHT 8.0 grams 8.0 grams 15.55 grams
DIMENSIONS 27.3 mm 27.3 mm 27.3 mm
FINISH Proof Proof, colour Proof
MAX MINTAGE 3,010 7,410 260
BOX MINTAGE 3,000 7,000 250
R.R.P. £60.00 £65.00 £945.00