Why are some UK coins magnetic?

It’s a question many coin collectors ask, and so in this blog we’re going to get to the bottom of which UK coins really are magnetic and why!

1p and 2p coins

Prior to 1992, 1p and 2p coins were made from a bronze alloy of copper, tin and zinc.

As a result of rising prices of base metals, from 1992 onwards the composition of the coins changed to copper plated steel.

Both compositions are the same weight, diameter and design, meaning that they circulate together with no noticeable differences – other than the fact that coins with a steel core are magnetic.

The steel core of the newer coins is electroplated in copper to give them the same colour as the pre 1992 coins, so the only way to tell them apart is to use a magnet!

5p and 10p coins

As a result of metal prices rising on world markets, since January 2012 the compositions of 5p and 10p coins have been made from a plated steel, making them magnetic.

In 2013, The Royal Mint began a programme to recover old 5p and 10p coins from circulation. 330 million of new plated steel coins have been issued in their place.

In the same style as the new 1p and 2p coins, the new 5p and 10ps are electroplated, but with nickel rather than copper to give them their ‘silver’ colour.

Interesting Facts

  • When plated steel coins are attached to a magnet, the coins themselves become magnetized. With a strong magnet you can attach coins to each other and ‘dangle’ them. (The Royal Mint).
  • There are a higher percentage of magnetic 5p and 10p coins in circulation compared to 1p and 2ps.
  • The 5p and 10p coins became 11% thicker when their compositions changed.
  • In 2010, a magnetic sculpture called ‘Drop’ was created by Paul Cocksedge to encourage passers-by to attach unwanted pennies to its surface in aid of charity.

Have you noticed any magnetic coins in your change? Test it out for yourself and see if you can create your own magnetic artwork using these coins!

If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:

– Find and identify the coins in their pocket
– Collect and track the coins they have
– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers

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Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app


  1. Jim on November 26, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    The Royal Mint seem to have abandoned the cupro-nickel recovery programme after 2016 – a good third of 10p coins I receive in change are dated pre 2011 – there was an opportunity to issue many more A-Z 10p’s had the programme continued.

  2. Malcolm on November 25, 2019 at 11:51 am

    We sometimes hear of Roman and Viking coins being found. If in a thousand years time anyone digs up any of the modern day coins they will be unrecognizable as coins just a rusty blob so store your coins well if you want them to hold their value as they will deteriorate so much faster that the old coins

  3. Mike Bentley on November 25, 2019 at 9:53 am

    There were some 1992 Bronze 1p and 2p coins as well as the plated steel ones. And in 1998 some 2p coins were made of Bronze instead of plated steel.

    There are some 2011 dated 5p & 10p coins made from plated steel.