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

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

Happy Valentine’s Day Change Checkers!

Today we’re celebrating our shared love of coin collecting and below you’ll find some amazing reasons why Change Checkers love this timeless hobby…

 

 

 

“I love all the different designs & finding them to add to your collection, I have a collection for both my children & I love seeing their faces as they look through their folders at all the different designs! Raiding my family & friends change as well is always fun.” – Lisa Owen

 

Love checking through my change for new coins for my collection. I even have my friends saving me the ‘weird coins’ and love to see them get excited for me!!” – Tyra Bisset

 

“It’s the anticipation of buying something when you’re out and about, seeing a shiny or well used coin and finding out it’s one you don’t have in your collection. I got my last 2 Beatrix Potter 50p’s just by having a cheeky cuppa and getting them in my change.” – Nina Goodman

“We love the different designs that are on the coins and the excitement of finding them in a hunt! 😊” – Coins with Lauren and Miya

 

“I like that I get most of the good/new coins from my husband Sam Chisholm-Brown while he is away with work. It helps me to remember that he’s still thinking about me. This week he sent a photo of the Mary Rose, so I have that to look forward to on Friday when he gets home. P.s. He hasn’t found me a 10p yet *unicorn poop!” Jemma Chisholm-Brown

 

“Seeing the historical events on the coins 😍. And finding new coins that you haven’t got… completing a set. There are loads.” – Lizzie Martin

“Finding a new coin you don’t have is like Christmas. I love collecting them and some of them have meaning or have been made for a reason and I like to add them to my collection.” – Ellie Bibby

 

“Love seeing all the different designs and the joy it gives when turning over the coin to see which design I have, old and new alike.” – Michelle Bullimore

 

“I love collecting coins because I love looking at all the different designs on them. When I find one I don’t have I get so excited like it’s my birthday or Christmas. All my family and friends like to join in with my hunt to so that makes me love it even more especially when they find ones I don’t have. 😍” – Hannah Sutton

“The surprise element of not knowing what you’ll get in your change or coin bags.” – James Goodman

 

“I like the collecting element and searching through your change (and badgering friends to keep weird designed coins) in the hope you get ones you need and also they look pretty.” – Alex Campbell

 

“I love the hunt, and that moment of excitement when it’s another one ticked of the list.” – Robert Lipman

“It’s an investment for my kids 🙂 they love all the different design too!” – Leanne Wallwork

 

“I love collecting coins for 3 reasons: the excitement of looking, the fact that they can be found in so many places, and finally, that you could actually make a small fortune.” – John Moss

 

“Just seeing the excitement on my daughter’s face when she finds one she hasn’t already got is priceless.” – Deborah Wood

“I love collecting coins because of the great designs on them. Also I see it as preserving a part of british history. Kids in the future will probably never see half of the 50ps and definitely never see the old round pounds.” – Bradley Knott

 

“Collecting coins has meant family coming together enjoying a harmless hobby, grandchildren learn a bit of history as well.” – Judith Nichols

 

“Used to collect stickers and cards as a kid. That excitement and anticipation of opening the pack to see what was inside is now kinda what I feel when there’s a coin that, at first glance, is obviously not the usual design.” – Adam Grimmer

“I’ve collected coins for over 25 years. I love the different designs and I have friends and family who keep an eye out for me. I also collect each country from every year as well. It’s a very exciting hobby. I love going to antiques fairs with my son who has started collecting also.” – Kathryn Michelle Robins

 

“The fact that the whole family can join in. My son and wife get as excited as I do when they find that elusive coin.” – Tony Maden

 

Thank you to everyone for sharing the reasons why you love coin collecting. As always, we love hearing from Change Checkers, so leave us a comment below to share the love and get in touch with us this Valentine’s day.

Love,

Rachel and the Change Checker team 

x

 


 

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