Do you think you have a good knowledge of UK coinage? Well check out these 20 surprising facts that you might not know about UK coins!

1. The direction of each monarch’s effigy faces in the opposite direction to their immediate predecessor. This has been tradition since the time of Charles II onwards, with the only exception being Edward VIII, as he preferred his left portrait to his right, which was the side proposed for coins of his reign.

Edward VIII Left Portrait. Credit: Numista

2. Two 1p coins weigh the same as one 2p coin, and two 5p coins weigh the same as one 10p coin. A 1p coin weighs 3.56g, so times that by 2 and you’ve got the weight of a 2 pence piece, 7.12g

1p and 2p coins

3. Whilst the high-value banknote in general circulation is the £50 note, there are such things as £1 million notes and £100 million notes. They are locked away deep in the Bank of England’s vaults and are used to back the value of every notes issued by commercial banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

£1 million pound note. Credit: BBC.com

4. The word Farthing derived from a shortening of the word ‘Fourthing’. As far back as 1060, an English coin was shaped like a clover, so that any of the four leaves could be broken off and used as separate pieces of currency.

Farthing

5. The commonly used term ‘quid’ actually originates from the phrase Quid Pro Quo, which translates literally to ‘what for what’. This term first appeared back in 1661!

6. According to the central banks, Brits are the world leaders at counterfeiting. There are an estimated 300 fake notes in every one million sterling notes!

7. When the UK prepared for the decimalization of its coinage, the government embarked on an enormous media campaign including leaflets, TV spots and even songs!

Decimalisation Posters. Credit: Royal Mint Museum.

8. During the Second World War, Nazi Germany produced huge quantities of counterfeit sterling notes to try and devalue British currency. By 1945 a huge 12% of the notes in existence were counterfeit! The problem was solved by removing higher denomination notes from circulation and putting metal threads through new notes, making them harder to forge.

9. Stamps are not legal tender. Whilst you are free to accept stamps as payment for a service or goods, there is no legal obligation for you to accept them when offered. They have however been used as emergency currency in other countries.

1938 Emergency Spanish Currency Stamps. Credit: The Westminster Collection

10. You cannot pay fines in pennies. Have you ever considered paying a parking fine you didn’t think was fair with nothing but pennies? Well, be aware that the council is under no obligation to accept them! While relevant parties can choose to accept any type of payment they wish, in England and Wales restrictions apply on sums below £1.

11. Despite common belief, the polymer notes are not indestructible. Although we don’t recommend destroying them as you won’t be able to spend them!

Polymer £5 and £20 notes.

12. An estimated 28,850,000,000 UK coins are in circulation today! This is equivalent to almost 4 billion pounds worth of coins!

13. The use of gold in UK coinage ended when the First World War began. The gold sovereign, prior to 1914, was worth about £1 in circulation. However, the public were asked to hand any in to help fund the war effort. In its place came the £1 and £10 notes.

1910 Edward VII Circulating Gold Sovereign. Credit: Numista

14. There is a myriad of Cockney rhyming slang to describe money. Apple core means £20, Uncle Ben means 10 and if someone asks to borrow a taxi driver, they actually mean a fiver.

15. The ‘coppers’ in your change, aren’t actually made of copper. Since 1992, 1p and 2p coins have been made of steel, with a copper plating.

2 Pence Piece

16. The UK’s current definitive coinage dated 2008 or younger, make up the design of the Shield of the Royal Arms when they are all placed together. Pretty cool, right?

Shield of the Royal Arms in Definitive Coinage

17. Legend has it, the M11 has an exit but not an entry at Junction 5 to prevent would-be thieves escaping. This is because of its close proximity to the De La Rue Currency factory – where banknotes are printed for the Bank of England. This way, any potential robbers wouldn’t be able to make their escape quickly out of London and onto a motorway.

18. The Queen must officially approve any coin design before it can be made. The design is first put to the Chancellor, who then passes it on to the Queen for her official sign-off.

The Royal Mint Advisory Committee. Credit: The Royal Mint Museum

19. A full judicial trial is held to test newly-minted coins – called the Trial of the Pyx. This ceremony is held to ensure newly-minted coins conform to the required standards. The trials are held once a year and the coin’s diameter, chemical composition and weight is tested. These trials have been held since the 12th century and the process remains largely unchanged since that date!

The Trial of the Pyx. Credit: The Royal Mint Museum.

20. If you find a buried treasure chest of money and don’t report it, you could face a prison sentence! Technically any hidden treasure found in the UK belongs to the Queen! All findings must be reported to the coroner within 14 days and the treasure will be offered to museums. If the museums choose not to bid on it, then the finder/land-owner gets to receive it.

How many of these surprising facts did you already know? Let us know in the comments below!


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

Change Checker Web App Banner 2 Amends 1024x233 1 1024x233 - Your January 2019 Scarcity Index update!

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

Good news Change Checkers – your latest eBay Tracker and Valuation Index is here!

Whilst the secondary market can be a bit of a minefield, we’ve put together an easy way for you to see how much the Top 10 UK coins and banknotes are selling for right now.

eBay Tracker

Find out which coins and notes have been the key movers and shakers in the updated eBay Tracker below.

Once again, the Kew Gardens 50p is on the rise, this time increasing in price on the secondary market by a staggering £18! This comes after an increase of £5 on the last eBay Tracker update.

The ongoing popularity of this rare coin is clear to see and appears to be continuing to build following the 2019 re-issue of the coin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 50p.

But will we continue to see the price of this coin rise on the secondary market? Only time will tell and we’ll have to wait for the next eBay Tracker update to find out!

2009 Kew Gardens 50p

Other coins to keep an eye on are the Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland £2 which has increased in price by £10 since the last update and the Jemima Puddle-Duck 50p which has increased by £2.

However, the biggest riser on the eBay Tracker is the Olympic Football 50p which has increased by 107% to £15.50 on the secondary market – certainly not a bad return for a 50p coin!

As the rarest Olympic 50p in circulation, with a mintage of just 1,125,500, this coin has been on collector’s radars since the Olympic 50p series sparked a collecting frenzy in 2012.

And with the Tokyo Olympics approaching this year, are we likely to see these coins become even more popular with collectors in 2020?

2011 Olympic Football 50p

Valuation Index

Overall there has been a 4% increase in value for the Top 10 UK coins and banknotes since June’s update and this is mostly due to the impressive spike in price for the Olympic football 50p.

My coin isn’t on the eBay Tracker

The eBay Tracker follows the movements of the Top 10 UK coins and banknotes, however if your coin doesn’t appear on the tracker you can use our 6 point guide to help determine realistic a value for your coin.

So now that you’re up to date with our latest eBay Tracker, will you be selling any of the coins in your collection or will you continue to save them? Let us know in the comments below.

How does the eBay Tracker work?

The Change Checker eBay Tracker takes the last 9 sold prices achieved on eBay and gives the median price achieved (rounded to the nearest 50p). By taking the median, rather than an average, we avoid skewing created by one or two excessive prices achieved.

Please note that the Change Checker eBay Tracker is only ever designed to be a guide as to prices achieved on eBay. Prices may vary depending on collector demand and the quality of the coin being sold. It does not provide any guarantee as to future values of 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

January 2019 eBay Tracker Update

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

The 2020 George III £5 was issued as part of the Annual Coin Set on the 1st January and today the coin has been individually released.

King George III was the first king of the United Kingdom (which was officially formed in 1800) and to this day remains the longest reigning king in British History, reigning for an astonishing 59 years.

Throughout his reign, Britain fought in wars against France and America and from these wars the country emerged as a world power.

And so, in this anniversary year marking 200 years since his death, it seems only fitting that a brand new United Kingdom George III £5 coin should be issued.

2020 King George III £5 Coin

This is the first time George III has been celebrated on modern UK coinage and the stunning design explores the multifaceted nature of Britain’s longest reigning king.

Designed by renowned Royal Mint designer, Dominique Evans, the famous Bull’s Head portrait of George III is shown in a crowned cartouche, with the royal residence and his place of death, Windsor Palace, to the left and the King’s Observatory, which was founded by King George, to the right.

Click here to secure this coin for your collection!

Our Top Three George III Coins

But of course this is not the first time that King George has featured on UK coinage…

Throughout his reign from 1760 – 1820, the portrait of the king featured on the obverse design of Britain’s circulating coins.

We’ve taken a look at what we feel are three of the most interesting coins issued during his reign and the stories behind them.

1819 Sovereign

The very first gold Sovereign was struck during Henry VII’s reign in 1489, when the king ordered The Royal Mint to produce “A new money of gold.”

Originally Sovereigns were circulating coins accepted in Britain and elsewhere in the world, however it is now a bullion coin and is sometimes mounted in jewellery.

Many recent Sovereigns feature the well-known design of Saint George and the Dragon on the reverse, along with the initials (BP) of the designer, Benedetto Pistrucci.

1819 George III Sovereign. Credit: The Royal Mint

Now you might have heard of the 1819 Sovereigns already, and that’s because these coins are renowned for being exceptionally rare.

Remarkably, only 3,574 Sovereigns were minted during 1819 – struck on five separate occasions, between August and November 1819.

These coins were minted using gold provided by private merchants.

200 years after they were struck, it’s thought that potentially only ten of these Sovereigns are known to still exist.

Unsurprisingly, these coins sell for astonishing prices at auction, with the highest quality 1819 Sovereign known to exist achieving a price of £186,000 in 2013.

Cartwheel Penny

During the 18th century, the practice of melting down official copper coins and making lightweight forgeries had become so widespread that it prompted industrialist Matthew Boulton to offer a solution.

George III Cartwheel Penny

He proposed that each coin should actually be made to contain its value in copper, the quality should be improved by using a retaining collar during striking (to give a perfectly round coin) and thick raised borders would prevent them wearing so easily.

In 1797 Boulton was awarded a contract to supply 480 tonnes of pennies, each weighing one ounce and these were the very first British coins to be minted by steam power.

The George III Cartwheel Penny was also Britannia’s debut appearance on the penny – a position she held until decimalisation in 1971.

The remarkable story of when a British 2 pence weighed the same as a Mars Bar…
The modern 1p coin compared to the 2oz 2d coin

Because of their large size, Boulton’s coins soon earned the nickname ‘cartwheels’.

It is highly unusual for a low denomination to have such a substantial size and weight, and unsurprisingly they are in high demand from collectors for their status as Britain’s heaviest ever penny.

Eighteen Pence

In 1797, after a failed French invasion caused financial panic, British gold and silver coins disappeared from circulation, hoarded out of fear.

With so much coinage withdrawn from circulation, The Royal Mint found itself in a vulnerable position with a limited ability to issue coins.  

Incredibly, this lead to the extremely unusual situation where the Bank of England acted as a substitute for The Royal Mint by issuing an emergency currency. 

George III Eighteen Pence. Credit: Numisbids

Technically speaking, these emergency issues were not coins but tokens.

This is also the reason why they issued very unusual denominations, including the eighteen pence piece.

These tokens were issued for just 7 years until they were eventually withdrawn from circulation in 1817, by which time a massive silver recoinage had been undertaken.

So now you know the stories behind some of the most acclaimed coins issued during the reign of George III, how does the brand new 2020 £5 coin compare? And will you be adding it to your George III collection?


Secure your 2020 George III £5 Coin

The 2020 George III £5 Coin is now available to purchase individually in superior Brilliant Uncirculated quality.

Click here to add this coin to your collection.