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Stephen Hawking coin revealed, and it's out of this world

"I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought," the designer said.

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Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read
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The Stephen Hawking coin is pretty stunning.

The Royal Mint

Ever feel like your money just falls into a black hole? You might find it fitting to pick up a 50 pence coin (about 65 cents US, 95 cents Australian) honoring late British physicist Stephen Hawking

The Royal Mint began issuing the coin March 12 at 7 a.m. GMT (3 a.m. Eastern time/midnight Pacific).

The Mint revealed the coin late Monday. It features Hawking's name and an image of a black hole, with Queen Elizabeth II on the reverse side.

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The Hawking coin as shown on the Royal Mint's site.

Royal Mint

"Stephen Hawking made difficult subjects accessible, engaging and relatable and this is what I wanted to portray in my design," coin designer Edwina Ellis said on the Royal Mint's site. "I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought. I am sure he would have thought of ways to harness the shiny table of the coin too."

Those of us who don't have a regular opportunity to handle British money can buy the coin online, but it's not cheap. According to the Daily Mirror, the Mint is selling the coin for £10 ($13 US, AU$18) for a simple uncirculated version of the coin to £795 ($1,050 US, AU$1,485) for a gold version of the coin. (Or just find a British friend to get you one.)

The coin's release came two days before the one-year anniversary of Hawking's death on March 14. The acclaimed scientist was 76 when he died in 2018.

Hawking's daughter, Lucy, and son Tim visited the Royal Mint to see the coin.

"It is a great privilege to be featured on a coin, and I hope my father would be pleased to be alongside Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin as scientists who have made it on to money," Lucy Hawking said in a statement. 

In a video taken at the Mint, she comments on the design. "It's a 2D surface that seems to have a 3D image on it," Hawking notes. "It's as though you could fall into the black hole."

Coin collector site Change Checker says Hawking will be one of only three people commemorated on a British coin within a year of dying, along with Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother.

When Hawking was just 21, he was diagnosed with a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis known as Lou Gehrig's disease that gradually paralyzed him. He used a wheelchair and spoke through a computer system operated with his cheek.

Hawking is also in the running to appear on the British 50 pound note. £50 translates to about $64 US and AU$92.

Stephen Hawking’s brilliance in 9 quotes

See all photos

Originally published March 8.

Update, March 12: Adds image of the coin and new details.