During Beatrix Potter’s lifetime, her popular Peter Rabbit character was made into a patented doll, transformed into wallpaper, and used as the basis of a board game. Now, more than 70 years after the British author’s death in 1943, the rabbit has become the first character from children’s literature to grace U.K. currency. According to The Independent, England’s Royal Mint announced that Peter Rabbit will be featured on a silver 50p to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the British author’s birth in 1866.
A special colored edition depicting the boisterous, blue jacket-wearing bunny is available starting today. An additional three coins depicting other beloved figures will be released later this year to round out the four-piece set, and uncolored silver versions of the designs will eventually be released into general circulation.
Royal Mint designer Emma Noble, who created the whimsical coins, says she chose to highlight Potter’s classic illustrations because “they are lovely images and the characters are very well known. I felt they were strong enough to stand alone, and I designed them in this way as I thought they would work best for both the colored commemorative and uncolored circulating coins,” The Guardian reports.
Potter’s children’s tale was commercially published in 1902. It tells the tale of Peter, a mischievous rabbit who sneaks into a curmudgeonly neighbor’s garden and eats his vegetables. The yard’s owner, Mr. McGregor, chases Peter, and the beleaguered bunny loses his jacket and shoes. Eventually, Peter escapes and returns home with a stomachache. His mother sends him to bed with a cup of soothing chamomile tea—and wonders where her son’s clothing has gone.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit was so popular that it had to be reprinted six times by the end of the year following its initial release. However, Potter’s tale—which was inspired by an illustrated letter she wrote to her former governess’s son in 1893—wasn’t an overnight success. Initially, the work was rejected by several commercial publishers, and Potter self-published 250 black-and-white copies of the books in 1901. In 1902, a colored version of Peter Rabbit was re-published by Frederick Warne & Co. Sales soared, and history was made.
[h/t The Independent]