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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 17, April 29, 2007, Article 24

ARTICLE: ROYAL MINT'S ONE PENCE PIECE OBSOLETE?

David Sundman, Philip Mernick and Dick Johnson all forwarded an article 
from the BBC News Magazine about the growing obsolescence of the one 
pence coin. Below are Dick Johnson's comments and a few excerpts from 
the article.

Dick Johnson writes: "A report published in Great Britain this week 
reveals where six and a half billion lost coins end up. And that's just 
the new pence issued since 1971. How the imaginative Brits studied that 
I don't know but here are some of their results: 2.6 billion of the 
small coins are lying in gutters and on the street -- and the percentage 
of people willing to pick them up is dwindling -- 1.1 billion in lady's 
handbags, 780 million in cars, 590 million under cushions of settees. 

"The Royal Mint is quoted as saying "the lost pennies account for 38 
per cent of all those issued." This suggests that Britons no longer 
believe in the saying: 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will 
look after themselves.' 

"Since September 1992 England -- like Canada -- has stuck pennies in 
copper plated steel. Had they continued striking them in copper, the 
copper alone today would cost 1.65 pence each.

"The report recounts that the half pence coin came into general 
circulation after the February 1971 decimalization. But the tiny 1/2p 
was withdrawn at the end of 1984 because shopkeepers could not be 
bothered with it any more. They had lost their economic usefulness.

"The rising cost of minting such low value coins is reflecting a 
world-wide trend. Low valued coins are destined to be abolished because 
of the rising world economy and the utter uselessness of a coin of 
such small value. It's no wonder that people don't bother to pick them 
off the street anymore.

"The news article on this report ran in several British newspapers. 
This one from the BBC News magazine had the best pictures, quotes 
Jeremy Cheek on the staff of Spinks, London's famed coin dealers, 
and has some interesting readers comments"

Here are some excerpts from the article: 

"'I bought something yesterday and it came to 3.99 and I said to 
the trader you can keep the penny. I've seen people years ago throwing 
the old half pence piece away and I think the penny is now viewed the 
same way. 

"'Personally speaking I can't see it being around much longer - maybe 
two or three years. I don't think you can buy things for a penny 
anymore. It's a sign of the times.' 

"The Royal Mint disagrees the coins days are numbered - as its re-design 
plans demonstrate. 

"Even the coin collectors have little time for the new penny. one 
expert describing it as 'very boring,' compared to the coin it replaced 
on D-day or decimalisation day back in February 1971. 

"'There was some sort of romanticism about the old penny with coins 
dating back to the time of Victoria still in circulation,' says 
Jeremy Cheek, Numismatist with coin dealers, Spink. 

"Since its introduction 36 years ago, it has changed remarkably little. 
The prefix 'new' was dropped from the coin's tail-side in 1982 and the 
head has seen three different pictures of the Queen as she has aged 
alongside the design. 

"But perhaps the biggest change will have passed most of us by with 
the switch in 1992 from an alloy of bronze, copper and zinc, to a steel 
disc coated in copper, when the price of the original raw materials 
outstripped the penny's face value. 

"The existing design won't vanish overnight when the re-vamped penny 
is introduced with what the mint promises will be a design reflecting 
'modern Britain.'"

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

To read a related article on Scotsman.com, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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