New coins celebrating Paddington Bear will soon start showing up in people’s pockets and wallets.
The Royal Mint has announced that two 50p coin designs featuring the beloved bear will enter UK circulation from October.
The move was welcomed by University of Sunderland culture expert Professor Angela Smith who has labelled the bear as a “pioneer for racial equality”.
In a time of political turbulence, where immigration remains a controversial topic, the move to recognise Paddington on a UK coin reflects the continuing popularity of the character and coincides with his 60th anniversary. He was first introduced to the nation in 1958 in Michael Bond’s A Bear Called Paddington.
The coin designs depict the Peruvian bear in two locations from his adventures – sitting on his suitcase at Paddington station and on a day out at Buckingham Palace.
Professor Smith said: “It’s great to see Paddington joining the ranks of other beloved children’s fictional characters in being commemorated on a 50p piece.
“As any reader of the books will know, Paddington is very careful with his money and to find him on the highest value silver coin is something of which I am sure he would approve.
“The original Paddington books were published in a pre-decimal Britain, where a shilling (5p) was seen as a huge amount of money for the little bear.
“Somehow, when updating the books in the 1990s to be more ‘modern’, the translation of this into decimal currency didn’t quite have the same effect. However, to see Paddington on a shiny 50p piece is something I think he would find very prestigious as he could buy a lot more sticky buns with 50p.”
The Royal Mint has previously released collectors’ versions of Paddington coins for people to buy, with prices ranging from £10 to £60.
Silver proof and brilliant uncirculated coins are still available to buy on the Royal Mint’s website as well as an album in which to store the coins.
And now, Paddington fans will also be able to get their paws on plain-metal coins celebrating the bear – free of charge.
The first plain-metal circulating versions of the coins will soon be found in people’s change, the Royal Mint said.
Professor Smith is based in the School of Culture at the University. In her research paper, Paddington Bear: A Case Study of Immigration and Otherness, the academic went back to Paddington’s origins, Britain in 1958, a time of widespread racism, and growing multiculturalism, into which a small bear from ‘Darkest Peru’ arrives with a unique perspective on British life.
“Michael Bond’s Paddington books deal with immigration at a very subtle level,” says Professor Smith. “Today those kinds of books are aimed at older children who, it is assumed, are better able to cope with the complex political and psychological issues.
“But that first book, A Bear Called Paddington, published in 1958, presents issues of anti-racism in a deceptively simple story.”
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Nicola Howell, director of consumer coin at the Royal Mint, said: “If you enjoy collecting coins, then keep your eyes peeled for Paddington Bear in your change and keep them safe in their own special collector album.
“Paddington Bear is well-loved and a part of British popular culture, and we’re incredibly proud to be playing a part in the 60th anniversary celebrations.”