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The 50 cent coin is a former circulation piece of the British West Indies dollar and its successor, the East Caribbean dollar. It was struck in 1955 and 1965 at the Royal Mint of the United Kingdom, and was distributed by the British Caribbean Currency Board (BCCB) between those dates. During this time, the coin carried a legal tender face value of 0.50 British West Indies dollar. After the disestablishment of this initial currency, the coin remained valid under the East Caribbean dollar, issued by the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority (ECCA), until 1981.
The piece was used primarily in the British West Indies, but also saw temporary circulation in some of the colony's successor states as well. During its entire period of validity, the coin was issued in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Montserrat, Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla (now Anguilla and Saint Kitts and Nevis), Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. After abandoning the British West Indies dollar in 1964, Grenada adopted the East Caribbean dollar in 1968, and returned to using the coin. The British Virgin Islands ceased to issue the piece in 1961, followed by Trinidad and Tobago in 1964, British Guiana (now independent Guyana) in 1966, and Barbados in 1972. Jamaica, which mostly issued its own currency, also used the piece infrequently until 1964.
The piece is composed of cupronickel and has a mass of 13 grams, a diameter of 30 millimeters, and a thickness of approximately 2.36 millimeters. It has medallic alignment and a reeded edge, and like most coins, is round in shape. The rims of both the obverse and reverse are raised and decorated with a dentillated border.
Displayed in the center of the obverse is the right-facing illustration of Elizabeth II (1926–) designed by Cecil Thomas (1885–1976). This likeness of the British monarch, introduced for colonial coins in 1953, shows a young Elizabeth with curly hair, wearing an ornate necklace on her neck and St. Edward's Crown on her head. On the piece, the image is accompanied by the caption "QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND", which extends in a clockwise direction from the upper right to upper left peripheries.
Featured in the middle of the reverse, designed by English artist Thomas Humphrey Paget (1893–1974), is a heraldic depiction of the British West Indies. Featured at the top of the image is a large rendition of the colonial badge of Barbados, followed below (from left to right) by smaller badges of the Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, the Windward Islands, and British Guiana. On the coin, the state title "BRITISH CARIBBEAN TERRITORIES" is engraved along the outer periphery, extending clockwise from the lower left to lower right boundaries of the reverse. "EASTERN GROUP", indicating the exclusion of the British Caribbean colonies of British Honduras and Jamaica, is printed between the aforementioned text and the heraldic illustration, with the two words arched toward the upper rim and divided by the badge of Barbados. Curved toward the bottom rim, below most of the central image, is the face value "FIFTY CENTS". Underneath, inscribed counterclockwise in Western Arabic numerals along the rim, is the Gregorian date of minting (either "1955" or "1965"). Both words in the value, as well as the initial two and final two digits of the date, are separated by the badge of the British Guiana.
A total of approximately 1,602,000 examples of the 50 cent piece were produced, including 1,502,000 pieces in 1955 and 100,000 specimens in 1965. Of the coins dated 1955, 2,000 were struck with a proof finish and included in sets; the remainder were made as business strikes. Three versions of the 1965 piece are known: standard, proof, and proof-like. The limited number of proofs are solely included in sets. Previously, the popular Standard Catalog of World Coins listed the 50 cent piece under the category, "British East Caribbean Territories". In more recent editions, however, it has been combined with "East Caribbean States".
- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation – East Caribbean States, 50 Cents, KM #7 (1955–1965)
- Numista – 50 Cents – Elizabeth II (first portrait) – Eastern Caribbean (English) (French)
- Notes Collection – 1 Dollar 1956, British Caribbean Territories
- British West Indies dollar on the English Wikipedia
- East Caribbean dollar on the English Wikipedia