'I thought 50p from the future was a fake'

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When Sarah Legg got her change from the college cafe after buying a cup of tea she was stunned to see a shiny coin that appeared to come from the future.

Amongst the coins was a brilliant new 50p piece - dated 2011.

The coin is one of a series of 29 new 50p pieces to mark the forthcoming 2012 London Olympics.

They weren't originally due to be released until the new year, but have been put out early because of public demand.

Sarah, 17, of Riverside Avenue, Fareham, said: 'I was given it in my change at Fareham College. I noticed it almost straight away because it was so shiny.

'Some of my friends thought it must be a fake, but when I got home I showed it to my dad and we did some research online about it.

'They're quite cool. I'm not going to collect them, but I am going to keep it and if I get any more that's great. It does feel quite special, especially to get one so early.'

Sarah's coin, which has a volleyball player on the reverse side, is part of the first collection in the Royal Mint's history that has been entirely designed by the general public.

The winning designs feature images of all the official Olympic sports of London 2012 such as athletics, gymnastics, sailing and swimming, as well as Paralympic sports such as boccia and goalball.

Nick Scargill, Royal Mint press officer, said: 'It is unusual, but they are perfectly legal tender.

'It has been a conscious decision to release them earlier because of the level of interest in them they are very special and we hope people will want to collect them.'

Since its introduction 41 years ago, only 16 designs have previously featured on the nation's 50p.