Why the Royal Mint MUST bring back PROPER face value coins

Not so long ago I received a text message…

text1 - Why the Royal Mint MUST bring back PROPER face value coins
It was from my 8 year-old niece.

Sadly for Phoebe, she’ll still have to concentrate at school – the coin was worth a couple of pounds.  But it reminded me of something – why people collect coins.

They are real. They are tangible. They become parts of history.

But it all only makes sense if a coin has a proper face value.

I’ve been involved in the coin business for quarter of the century. And I love the next proof finish, limited edition coin just as much as the next new issue distributor – and indeed collector. The polished blank, the skilled craftsmanship of the minter, the miniature artistry of the designer. Even the odd 21st Century gimmick.

They have authority, value and collectability.

But new issue limited editions only make sense if we don’t forget their origin – an official, government authorised, legally enshrined token to use in exchange for goods and services. Or, as you and I might prefer to say, “money”.

1,100 years as custodians of our coinage

There’s one body in Britain that I always thought would be the very last to forget the real meaning of a coin. They boast over 1,100 years of history – right the way back to the time of Alfred the Great.  The British Royal Mint.

But that seems to be just what has happened over the last few years. The Royal Mint appears to have forgotten what coins are all about. There’s a danger of turning our nation’s great coinage into mere trinkets.

Three fundamental things have gone wrong in the last few years.

1. Britain’s flagship coin is no longer available for face value.

petition - Why the Royal Mint MUST bring back PROPER face value coins

Please take a moment to sign our petition to Bring Back the UK Face Value £5 Coin

The £5 Coin is the nation’s flagship commemorative coin. Introduced in 1990 as a direct replacement for the commemorative crown, it remained possible to buy these coins through banks and post offices (as well as the Royal Mint, The Westminster Collection and other distributors) in circulating quality right up 2009. Then there was a blip.

The Olympic £5 coins had to be treated differently because of the complexities of Olympic licensing rules but the Royal Mint did make them available to distributors and collectors in special brilliant uncirculated packs for face value. Then the 2011 Royal Wedding coin was apparently too late to be issued in circulating standard.

By 2012, the Royal Mint had totally stopped producing circulation quality £5 coins to distribute through banks and post offices but the Diamond Jubilee £5 coin was still available in brilliant uncirculated form for face value.

That is until May, when the Royal Mint withdrew it, leaving collectors with the option of a £13.00 cardboard pack as the lowest priced alternative.  

The £5 coin has never returned since at face value.

But why?  According to the Royal Mint they stopped distribution through banks and post offices because there was no demand from them. But is it as simple as that? In 2002 3.5 million £5 coins were issued for the Diamond Jubilee. Still in 2005, over 1 million £5 coins were issued. But the following year, numbers collapsed, not by a bit, but by 95% to just 52,000 coins.  Surely a drop like that is not simply an overnight lack of demand from collectors.

And as to why the Mint stopped the brilliant uncirculated face value offer in 2012. I can only speculate but, as they say in America, “you can do the math”.

[Discover how you can be one of just 1,000 collectors who will have the opportunity to own the 2016 Queen’s 90th £5 for face value courtesy of Change Checker]

2. The introduction of silver commemorative face value coins

But apparently all was not lost for the face value collector, because as quickly as the £5 face value coin disappeared a new and exciting legal tender face value coin arrived. The Silver £20 coin.

cl st george dragon 20 pounds - Why the Royal Mint MUST bring back PROPER face value coins

The first £20 face value coin, issued in 2013

First struck in the summer of 2013, this newly specified UK coin contained 1/2 oz of silver and featured Pistrucci’s St. George and the Dragon.

It was released with much fanfare and unheard of restrictions for collectors – limited numbers per household, UK only sales and online only reservations.

But the key thing was that this was a face value offer – a legal tender £20 for £20. Apparently you couldn’t go wrong.

In late December 2014, a £100 coin followed – it was a sensation. 50,000 pieces sold out in days. And last year a £50 coin for £50 joined the stable.

What could go wrong for collectors? These were beautiful coins, marking great British icons and huge national anniversaries. And you paid only their face value.

Except, it transpires, these coins are not quite what you might expect. They are “legal tender” but they are “not for circulation”. Apparently, you shouldn’t expect to be able to spend them and banks and post offices do not have to accept them either. In fact, according to a letter published by the Daily Mail, the Royal Mint has actually written to banks telling them NOT to accept these coins.

How can this be if they are legal tender?

Well there’s a loophole. In the UK there is a strict definition of “legal tender” and it’s not what you’d think. It doesn’t mean a coin has to be generally accepted. Apparently, according to the Royal Mint, “Legal tender has a very narrow and technical meaning in the settlement of debts. It means that a debtor cannot successfully be sued for non-payment if he pays into court in legal tender.”

In fact if you want to get your money back on a precious metal face value coin, the Royal Mint says you have just 14 days to do so – their statutory obligation under Distance Selling regulations.

3. Delayed release of circulating commemorative coins

Luckily our normal coins, including commemorative £2, £1 and 50p coins, don’t have the same restrictions cast over them (although it is rather difficult to understand exactly how their status is any different in law).

In 2012 we saw the immense influence that an effective face value circulation coin programme has on coin collecting. 29 million Olympic sport 50ps went into circulation. Royal Mint figures estimated that 75% have been removed from circulation. It spawned thousands of new collectors – many of them children – and fueled a national interest in coins that I have not seen since every school child received a Silver Wedding Crown in 1977. It even started Change Checker!

But how would that have worked if the first time the Olympic 50p coins entered circulation had been December 2012? Four months after the Olympic flame had been extinguished. When Super Saturday was just a memory.

It simply wouldn’t have.

where are the 2015 uk coins to collect - Why the Royal Mint MUST bring back PROPER face value coins

The 2015 designs were still not in circulation when the Royal Mint announced the 2016 designs

But that’s exactly what’s happening now with our commemorative circulation coins. The Royal Mint released the 2015 coins in Autumn 2014. You could own them all, alongside the definitive designs (total face value of £18.38), in a Brilliant Uncirculated Collector’s pack for £50.00.

In November the Royal Mint revealed the 2016 designs – once again available in a Brilliant Uncirculated Pack. This time for £55.00.

Yet none of the 2015 commemorative coins had even entered circulation. A year after their release; months after their anniversaries and after the new 2016 coins had been released.

And to add insult (well two insults) to injury, the last round pound will never even enter circulation and within weeks of the 2016 coin announcement, the Royal Mint has already added the Beatrix 50p to the year’s issues, making their own year-sets incomplete.

Our nation’s commemorative coins need to be vested in real coins. Legal tender must  mean that you can spend it on the Clapham Omnibus – or at the very least pay it into a bank.

It’s that reality that has kept coin collecting alive for centuries.

It’s that reality that excited my niece, Phoebe, to send that text.

[Please click here to support our campaign to bring back the UK £5 coin for £5 by signing the petition at change.org]

Discover how you can be one of just 1,000 collectors able to own the new 2016 UK Queen’s 90th Birthday £5 for £5 courtesy of Change Change Checker.

Click here to enter the ballot today

  1. Sturat Gibson on January 23, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    This could count as mis-selling as the value states £100.
    Also in the advertising materials it states legal tender, so under the fair terms of the contract we enter into when purchasing the coin, we must have the right to receive £100 back for the coin etc.
    This must be reported of Trading Standards, for what they have done is paramount to fraud.
    Lets hope someone takes this up and challenges the Royal Mint.

    • Richard Savage on January 27, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      Re, the “face value” coins . Mis-selling? My sentiments entirely. The banks were torn apart for mis-selling, I believe the “Royal” mint is as guilty.

    • Stephen Smythe on January 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      I think on the year of issue these coins should be sold at face value If I was to collect all this year issues in my change it would be about £18.50 to buy the uncirculated set is £50.00 for the sake of some fancy packages what a rip off !!

  2. Joe Martin on January 23, 2016 at 11:19 am

    I am very shocked by this revelation, I purchased the 1st £100 coin and when the 2nd came out I got two so I could have one to “play” with. I happily opened one and would have it in my pocket down the pub as a fun talking point. I would tell people that I could spend it if I wished as it is “legal tender”. Now I discover the Royal Mint have made me a liar, and worse still they have deliberately undermined its value by advising banks not to accept them. This is reprehensible behaviour quoting some obscure legal definition to justify their actions. They know what the “common man” understands by that phrase so this is a callous misrepresentation of the goods they are selling and as such is questionably illegal. Shame on them!

  3. Richard Evans on January 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Its criminal, its gross misleading and well to be expected of rotten to the core Britain, the reason banks don’t take 5 pound coins, A. the territory coins, B the fakes, C Greed, the more nickel coins they sell the better for them its just nickel hence WE DONT WANT THEM BACK.
    I collect coins and will continue, however under no illusion’s they will actually be worth anything, other than my silver proofs & they will only ever be worth the scrap weight value, hence I stick to the bullion stuff these days,

  4. Stephen Smythe on January 20, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I myself have been a collector for some 35 years since I was a child when I started and all ways tried to keep new circulated coins I have found in my change and the missing dates now on ebay. up until now I use to buy the proof set every year but this now is out of my reach as it was priced at £150.00 this year plus postage so settled for the uncirculated set instead. Finding now they are just to expensive and out of reach for the average collector.

  5. Sally Ann on January 20, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Wow. How bitter and twisted do you sound.

    Surely this wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the royal mint won’t sell coins to you now?

    Quiet shallow. But it’s not a shock after seeing the rest of the rubbish you’ve posted recently.

    Get your pride back. Stop with all this pathetic rubbish

    • Ian Glen on January 20, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      Hi Sally

      Thanks for your comment – I’m sorry that’s your view.

      Yes, of course, we’d love to be able to distribute UK coins and give collectors more choice. But bitter, we are not. We genuinely think that proper face value coins are essential – and it seems that many, many collectors agree.

      Kind regards


      • diane67blog on February 2, 2016 at 3:44 pm

        I would like to point out that i am an avid collector of commemorative coins.I dont understand why the royal mint make coins then dont release them into circulation for example the magna carta £2,last june i was in my local p.o when the woman in front of me was getting her change from the cashier,she asked about the £2 that was in her change & what it was to which the cashier replied its the magna carta,so they must be out there for this woman to get one in her change,i was going to ask her if i could do a face value swap but felt a bit rude so i didnt bother,if id of known how hard it is to get a magna carta in your change (not really wanting to pay the £9.99 westminster charge) i wouldve asked that woman for hers.

  6. ionfasole on January 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Where is the fun of collecting coins if you can`t find them in your change? In 100 years from now, people will have uncirculated sets and that is all. When i buy a victorian crown i feel amazing, i know that there is history that i am holding in my hands. Maybe my coin was held by Queen Victoria when she felt like doing something different and went by herself on the market to buy some goods from a local shop. Can i say something similar about nowadays coin sets? No. The coin has a history which has to be told. A piece of metal with an amazing design it is not a coin, if it doesn`t circulate, it is just a piece of art , a medal.

  7. Richard on January 20, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    The “Royal” mint has become farcical, just another business out to make money. (Nothing wrong with that, ordinarily). I did start collecting some coins from the Mint, but no longer. Purported to be legal tender, they are not. 60 + million uk citizens agree, legal tender, you should be able to spend!

  8. elizabeth hunter on January 20, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Excellent and very informative. I am one of the many recently converted coin collectors and am appalled that The Royal Mint are behaving in this manor. It defeats the object of collecting coins if we are not able to find any of them in our change but have to buy them at extortionate prices. I also agree that the commemorative crowns should still be available to buy at face value from banks and post offices as they used to be. Who governs The Royal Mint? Surely they have the monopoly on producing legal tender coins? Monopolies Commission investigation? Something wrong somewhere, someone is making a ‘mint’ at our expense!

    • Ian Glen on January 20, 2016 at 7:34 pm

      Hi Elizabeth

      Thanks for your comments – I hope you’ve signed the petition!

      As you say, the Royal Mint has the exclusive rights to produce UK coins. It is a 100% government owned limited company. It also has a Treasury Minister who has oversight over the Royal Mint.

      Unfortunately, the Royal Mint has not even supplied UK distributors with commemorative coins since 2013, so UK collectors really don’t have any choice.

      Kind regards


  9. Ed Leaver on January 20, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    The banks around here will not even accept a £5 to be paid into my own account or exchange for £5 in any denomination

    • Ian Glen on January 20, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      Hi Ed

      Thanks for your comment.

      With regard to £5 coins, the Royal Mint’s website says:

      However, please note that whilst the coins are legal tender, banks are not obliged to accept the coins (please refer to guidelines on legal tender status ). Policies on accepting crowns do vary, therefore it is advisable to check with your bank in advance.

      Alternatively, crowns can be exchanged for goods or services at Main Post Office branches throughout the UK.

      I hope that helps. That been said, if you can, I’d hang on to them – their historical interest will be worth more to future generations than £5 now.

      Kind regards


  10. Jackie Pedzinski on January 20, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I think the whole matter is a disgrace. I have over the last two years bought at face value 2 x Big Ben and 2 x Buckingham place £100.00 plus 2 x £50.00 for my grandchildren, also a couple of £20.00 coins, I only bought them because it said legal tender. I now I understand wrongly believed that when I died if my two grandchildren didn’t want to keep my collections they could get the face value back for them, either from a bank or the Bank of England. I WAS WRONG.

    Also why is the Bank of England so slow in releasing coins ?

    The final insult is that the last £1.00 coin is apparently not going into circulation, you have to buy it at a greatly inflated price…THIS WHOLE MATTER NEEDS LOOKING INTO…apart from the fact I can’t afford the prices, where does the huge profit go to.

    • Ian Glen on January 20, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Hi Jackie

      Thanks for comments. As you say it’s a real shame that the Royal Mint won’t stand behind the £20, £50 & £100 face value. All I can say is at least you have some beautiful and historic collectable coins.

      It’s the Royal Mint and not the Bank of England (who are only responsible for our banknotes) who are responsible for issues relating to coins.

      Kind regards