Olympic coins released

Special 50p coins are being released ahead of the 2012 Olympics - three of which have been designed by men from the Thames Valley.

It's the first time pictures created by the public have been used on coins made by the Royal Mint.

The designers who were selected from the Thames Valley are Reading Delivery driver Shane Abery, whose design adorns the boxing 50p, and Witney sculptor Jonathan Olliffe, whose designs show gymnastics and aquatics.

The winning designs were picked from nearly 30,000 entries in a Royal Mint public competition.  The winners share the honour of seeing their designs come into circulation in 2010 and 2011 and also knowing that, like every UK coin in general use, it has got approval from the Queen and the Treasury.

A panel of independent experts and representatives from Royal Mint, London 2012 and the International Olympic Committee picked the winning designs.

Olliffe, who created the designs for gymnastics and aquatics coins, likes to think of his winning coin designs as a piece of art for everyone's pocket.

He said: "I can't believe it, to think how many people entered the national competition and to have my designs made and circulated around the nation is very exciting.''

Natasha Ratcliffe, a sculptor and part-time chef from Falmouth, whose designs appear on the handball and wheelchair rugby coins, said: "I'm very excited but it won't be a reality until I go and buy some apples from the shop and get a 50 pence in my change that I designed, that has been innocently in the pockets and hands of strangers, buying penny sweets and houses."

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said: "Coins are a part of the fabric of our daily life, so to have a range of coins designed specifically to celebrate London 2012 is a huge honour, made all the more special by the fact that members of the public have designed them.

"The 50ps will be part of a long-lasting, wide-reaching cultural legacy that will benefit the entire nation and I'm looking forward to finding the first one in my change and collecting the entire range."

It is the first time in the Royal Mint's 1,100-year history that members of the public have designed a series of coins for nationwide circulation.

The London 2012 coins will also be the Royal Mint's biggest joint release of designs on coins for general use.

Since its introduction 41 years ago when decimalisation was established, only 16 designs have featured on the nation's 50p.

Dave Knight, the Royal Mint's director of commemorative coin, said: "Every one of our twenty nine winners is making history. Their coins will become treasured mementoes of the biggest sporting event to happen on UK shores in a generation, and will be around for generations to come.

"Every coin captures the spirit, excitement and passion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In isolation each is a work of art, together they are an inspirational portrait of a sporting phenomenon. The Royal Mint is immensely proud to be part of London 2012 and we're thrilled that this competition has enabled ordinary people to play a part too."

Olympic coin designs

Pictures show Jonathan Olliffe from Witney (above) and Shane Abery from Reading (below) with their designs

Olympic coin designs