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Royal Mint honours Maidstone's Iguanodon dinosaur

Maidstone's most famous son - its Iguanodon dinosaur - is to be commemorated in a new range of Royal Mint coins.

Iggy - as he is popularly known - was exposed during rock-blasting at a ragstone quarry off the Queen's Road in Maidstone in 1834.

KMTV reports on the new coin

The quarry owner, William Harding Bensted, brought the "very large bones" to the attention of biologist Gideon Mantell, who had already discovered teeth and claws from a previously unidentified creature elsewhere in the country. The Maidstone fossilized skeleton was architecturally almost complete enabling Mr Mantell for the first time to speculate what the creature looked like and to name it the Iguanodon.

The discovery came before even the existence of dinosaurs was known. It was not until 1842 that Sir Richard Owen first coined the term dinosaur and speculated that giant reptiles had once roamed the earth.

His theory was based on the evidence of three creatures that had by then been discovered: Maidstone's Iguanodon, the Hylaeosaurus also identified by Mr Mantell and the Megalosuarus discovered by palaeontologist William Buckland.

It is these three creatures that are featured on three new 50p pieces produced by the Royal Mint in collaboration with the Natural History Museum for its "Dinosauria Collection."

Maidstone's Iguandon on a 50p coin
Maidstone's Iguandon on a 50p coin

Iggy is now believed to have been between 125m and 130m years old. When alive, he stood three metres tall, was 10 metres long and weighed between four and five tons. However, you would have been quite safe around him - he was a herbivore.

The Natural History Museum offered William Bensted £10 for Iggy's fossils, but the canny quarry owner held out for £25 (equivalent to £3,275 today). It was such an important discovery that the museum agreed and Iggy is still on display there today.

In 1949, Iggy was adopted as part of Maidstone's official coat of arms - along with a lion and the Invicta white horse. The borough is the only town in the UK to have a dinosaur as part of its coat of arms.

However, you are unlikely to find an Iggy 50p in your pocketful of change any time soon. Although legal tender, the coins are produced as collector's items and cost £65 each.

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