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

We’re excited to present your latest eBay Tracker and Valuation Index for the Top 10 UK coins and banknotes!

The secondary market can be a bit of a minefield, but if you’ve found a rare coin or banknote and want to work out how much it might be worth, we’ve done the hard work for you…

eBay Tracker

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

The most notable increase from the last update goes (unsurprisingly) to the Kew Gardens 50p, which has increased in price on the secondary market by £5 and is currently selling for around £102 on eBay – more than 200 times its face value!

Whilst many collectors were concerned that the 2019 Brilliant Uncirculated re-issue of this 2009 coin would make it less collectable, it seems that in fact the opposite has happened and the reinvigorated hype surrounding the UK’s rarest 50p in circulation has led to an increase in demand for the coin, meaning collectors are willing to pay more to get their hands on one.

2009 Kew Gardens 50p

Other increases to mention are the AA01 serial number polymer banknotes, as both the £5 and £10 notes have increased by £2 since the last update, which is a 20% increase on January’s figures for the £5 and 11% for the £10 note.

Overall there has been a decrease in value for the Top 10 coins and banknotes and this is mostly due to the 2018 Sir Isaac Newton 50p, which has dropped by 32% on January’s figures and is currently selling for £40.50.

This coin was issued as a ‘Strike Your Own Coin’ from The Royal Mint Experience in 2018 and due to the short time frame it was available for, the number of coins struck could be really low, meaning it may well be very rare.

However the mintage figures for this coin haven’t been revealed by The Royal Mint yet, so we don’t know exactly how many were struck. When the official figures are released we could well see this coin increase in value on the secondary market.

Valuation Index

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

Welcome to the first Scarcity Index of 2019! We’re delighted to share with you the latest update to the A-Z 10p, 50p and £2 coin indexes, so that you can see where your coins now rank.

This information has been compiled using data from the Change Checker Swap Centre (find out how it works here) and presented in the easy to use indexes below, with arrows to signify how many places up or down a coin has moved on the Scarcity Index to help you track the performance of your coins.

A-Z 10p Scarcity Index

Although the A-Z of Great Britain 10ps are notoriously hard to find, we’ve now started to see more and more of these coins being added to people’s collections on the Change Checker app, and we’re able to use this data to build up an even more accurate picture of how sought-after each design is, using our Scarcity Index.

As you can see, now that we have more data to base the index on, there has been a lot of movement from the previous update. Whilst this was to be expected, we have seen some dramatic changes, in particular with ‘S’ for Stonehenge, which has jumped from the bottom to the top spot and is currently the scarcest A-Z 10p!

‘K’ for King Arthur has also jumped up by a massive 23 places and is now the second scarcest A-Z 10p. Finishing off our top 3 is ‘L’ for Loch Ness Monster, which has moved up the index by 9 places.

Down at the bottom of the index, we’ve seen ‘V’ for Villages drop 9 places, ranking it as our most common A-Z 10p. There was a 16 place drop for ‘I’ for Ice Cream, making it the second most common amongst Change Checkers. And finally, sitting in the third to last spot is ‘A’ for Angel of the North, which is actually one of only three coins to remain in the same position as the previous index.

‘F’ for Fish and Chips and ‘P’ for Postbox are other coins to keep your eye out for, as they have both jumped up significantly since the previous index.

Whilst we now have a lot more A-Z 10ps being listed in people’s collections, there are still relatively few swap requests for these coins, so it seems likely that if people are managing to find the coins, they are possibly keeping hold of them and only swapping the duplicates that they may be lucky enough to find.

The Scarcity Index will continue to become more accurate as more data is collected and the coins are swapped more often.

50p Scarcity Index

It comes as no surprise that the Kew Gardens remains king of the 50p Scarcity Index and the Olympic Football 50p still holds onto its place in second spot.

We’ve seen a bit of a shuffle amongst the Olympic Judo, Wrestling and Triathlon 50p coins, with Judo now retaking its place as the third scarcest 50p in circulation, following its fall 2 places on the previous index.

Towards the bottom of the index, we’ve seen the Team GB 50p move up 9 places, which has caused many of the lower scoring coins to move down 1 or 2 places, although our bottom 3 coins remain unchanged since the previous index.

The Girl Guides 50p has also seen a rise in scarcity, jumping 7 places up the index.

As the 2018 50p coins have now been found in circulation and are being swapped on the Change Checker App, we look forward to adding them to the Scarcity Index once mintage figures are confirmed.

£2 Scarcity Index

We’ve seen minimal changes on the £2 Scarcity Index, possibly due to the fact that the 2017 coins have not yet been released into circulation.

There has been a small shuffle amongst the Commonwealth Games £2 coins, however these coins remain the scarcest of the UK £2 coins in circulation due to their incredibly low mintage figures.

Whilst a few coins have moved 1 or 2 places on the index, the majority of £2 coins seem to have held on to their rating since the last update to the index, but it will be interesting to see what changes occur for the next update.

How your Scarcity Index works

Generally collectors have had to rely upon mintage figures to identify the scarcest coins.  But they only tell part of the story.  Trying to find a good quality coin from 15 – 20 years ago, even for a higher mintage issue, is much more challenging than a more recent issue, as coins become damaged over time and are ultimately removed from circulation.

Additionally, some designs are more hoarded than others by people who might not normally collect coins – the poignant First World War £2 Coin series being an example. Finally, it can be up to a couple of years before the Royal Mint eventually confirms the actual mintage for an issue.

That’s why we have combined the mintage information with two other key pieces of information.

  • How many of each design are listed as “collected” by Change Checkers, indicating the relative ease of finding a particular coin.
  • The number of times a design has been requested as a swap over the previous 3 months, showing the current level of collector demand.

Importantly, as new coins are released and popularity rises and falls across different designs the Scarcity Index will be updated quarterly allowing Change Checkers to track the relative performance of the UK’s circulation coins.

How much are my coins worth?

The Scarcity Index does not necessarily equate to value but it is certainly an effective indicator.  For example, the Kew Gardens 50p coin commands a premium of up to 160 times face value on eBay.

You can use the 6 point guide to help you determine a more realistic value for your coins.

What about £1 Coins?

The £1 Scarcity Index has already been published for the Round £1 coins and, because they are no longer being issued, this is now set in stone.


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 - The FIRST EVER A-Z 10p Scarcity Index!

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