The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 14, April 3, 2016, Article 24


Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker of Coin Week published an article March 26, 2016 about the Royal Mint's "nuanced" interpretation of Legal Tender values of modern commemorative coins. Apparently "100 Pounds" is not exactly equal to "100 Pounds". Here's an excerpt - be sure to read the complete version online and follow the links to the cited material. -Editor

20-50-100 pound Royal Mint coin denominations

The Royal Mint of the United Kingdom, one of the world’s leading mints and manufacturers of circulating and commemorative coins, has established a disturbing precedent by actively advising UK banks not to redeem collector coins at face value–despite the fact that the Royal Mint states in its online product descriptions that collector coins are legal tender in the UK.

It’s a move that troubles industry insiders and the British public, many of whom were unaware that the commemorative coins they’ve bought over the years have no practical monetary value.

The issue came to prominence at the end of 2015, when the Mint learned of a scheme wherein buyers would order bulk quantities of the Buckingham Palace £100 commemorative coin only to later redeem them at face value.

According to article published in January 9 by the UK financial website, one man purchased 293 of the coins in order to accrue airline miles on his credit card.

It wasn’t his first time, either. The man, identified only as “James”, said he would “purchase the face value of coins of £20, £50 and £100 and max out [his] credit card.” Then he would take the coins to a branch of HSBC Bank and redeem them.

This seemed to work, until it didn’t.

For while James was making deposits, the bank was seeking guidance from the Royal Mint on what to do with these precious metal commemorative coins – coins that, while advertised as “legal tender”, were not intended for circulation.

Fortunately for James (but maybe not so much for his preferred bank branch), he unloaded 210 of the coins before being told that the remaining 80 would not be accepted.

At the time of this writing, 80 £100 pound commemorative coins, if convertible to circulating money, would have a value of US$11,303, with an intrinsic value of approximately $2,441.60.

Legal tender has a very specific legal definition, and each issuing country defines its own rules in law. Small denominations are typically legal tender only up to a certain dollar amount.

... the Royal Mint provides the following guidelines for the maximum legal tender of each of the coin denominations that it strikes:

  • £100 – for any amount
  • £50 – for any amount
  • £20 – for any amount
  • £5 (Crown) – for any amount
  • £2 – for any amount
  • £1 – for any amount
  • 50p – for any amount not exceeding £10
  • 25p (Crown) – for any amount not exceeding £10
  • 20p – for any amount not exceeding £10
  • 10p – for any amount not exceeding £5
  • 5p – for any amount not exceeding £5
  • 2p – for any amount not exceeding 20p
  • 1p – for any amount not exceeding 20p

It is interesting to note that the coin denominations of £20, £50 and £100 are all special commemorative issues, and not struck for general circulation. Yet, according to the Royal Mint, coins in these denominations have unlimited legal tender status.

If 100 Pounds is only "100 Pounds" then clearly these modern commemorative coins are "coins" in name only - thus the quotes. We numismatists know that, but the public understandably does not. I have little sympathy for schemers who try to game the system with these credit card rebate ploys - loopholes like that tend to get closed down quickly when the sellers figure out what's going on. But it's these edge cases that push the boundaries and force the issues out into the open. You can't stamp these denominations on coins with a "wink wink nudge nudge" and not expect it to come back and haunt you someday. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the U.K. and the rest of the world. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
How The Royal Mint is Attempting to Redefine “Legal Tender” for Collector Coins (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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