Mary Anning: Fossil hunter celebrated with Jurassic 50p coins

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50p coinsImage source, Royal Mint/PA Wire
Image caption,
The 50p coins were designed by paleo-artist Robert Nicholls

The life of 19th Century fossil hunter Mary Anning is being celebrated with a new commemorative 50p coin collection.

Anning discovered Jurassic skeletons in her hometown of Lyme Regis, Dorset, which helped change long-held thinking about prehistoric life.

The cost of each of the three Royal Mint coins will range from £10 to £1,100 for a gold version.

The collection will depict a temnodontosaurus - a large-jawed marine reptile, a plesiosaurus - a large marine sauropterygian reptile, and a dimorphodon - a small flying reptile.

Image source, NHM
Image caption,
Mary Anning lived in the small Dorset town of Lyme Regis until her death in 1847, aged 47

Anning, who was born in 1799, was the child of a poor family and had nine siblings when she started helping her father collect fossils which he sold to tourists.

Her father died when she was 11 years old but she continued his work and, despite a lack of formal education, began teaching herself about geology and anatomy.

It was a year after her father's death that Anning discovered the skeleton - now known to be an ichthyosaur - that helped propel her into the history books.

She died in 1847, aged 47, of breast cancer.

Image source, Chris Talbot
Image caption,
Lyme Regis Museum stands on the site of Anning's birthplace

The new coins are part of the Royal Mint's Tales of the Earth commemorative 50p series, which have been created with the Natural History Museum.

Clare Matterson, from the museum, said the collection "celebrates a pivotal figure in the understanding of palaeontology, important contributions to science that were rarely acknowledged in Mary's lifetime".

The coins were designed by paleo-artist Robert Nicholls and feature augmented reality (AR), which was first used by the Royal Mint in 2020.

After receiving the coin, collectors can use AR to scan the packaging to unearth facts, clips and images about the prehistoric beasts.

The coins will be available to buy on the Royal Mint's website.

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