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

*** UPDATE ***

An extra 1.5 million Brexit 50ps have been released into circulation following the 3 million initially released when Britain left to EU.

The Treasury has confirmed the number of Brexit 50p coins will increase to 10 million by the end of the year to satisfy collector demand.


On the 31st January 2020 the United Kingdom left the European Union – over three and half years after the Vote.

This departure is possibly one of the most historically significant events to happen in modern history, so we know collectors will be extremely excited to hear a brand new United Kingdom coin has been issued to commemorate the occasion.

The 2020 UK Brexit 50p has been officially released today and is the only official United Kingdom coin to commemorate the occasion.

Although the design had been rumoured some time ago, the final design features the inscription ‘Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations‘ and the all-important date – 31st January 2020 – underneath.

However, this brand new 50p isn’t the only coin to have been issued to documents Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

In this blog, we take a look back at the coins which tell the story of the 43 year long partnership between the UK and the EU.

1973 European Economic Community 50p

In 1973, after over a decade of debate and discussion, Britain was finally successful in joining the EU – then known as the European Economic Community (EEC).

To mark such a ground-breaking partnership, The Royal Mint issued the FIRST-EVER commemorative 50p!

It’s hard to believe there was a time when commemorative 50p coins weren’t commonplace, but this 1973 coin was the very first of its kind!

The design features nine hands clasping each other in a circle, symbolising the nine member state of the community.

As the first-ever commemorative 50p, it’s unsurprising this release is considered hugely significant in British history, numismatic history, and is a staple of any UK coin collection.

The 1973 EEC 50p had a circulating mintage of 89,755,000.

1992/3 European Council Presidency 50p

In 1992/3 the UK celebrated its presidency of the European Council of Ministers, and the completion of the Single Market.

The intricate design of this 50p, by Mary Milner Dickens (who later designed the 2000 Libraries and the 2003 Suffragettes 50ps) shows a conference table seen from above, around which are the 12 chairs for the Council of Ministers.

However, what makes this 50p particularly special and sought-after by collectors is not the design, but the mintage.

This 1992/3 European Community Presidency 50p had a circulating mintage of JUST 109,000! It is the rarest UK 50p to EVER enter circulation.

When you consider the Kew Gardens is the rarest 50p currently in circulation and has a mintage of 210,000 you start to grasp how small the mintage for this 50p really is!

Any Change Checker who is lucky enough to have this coin in their collection must be incredibly pleased!

1998 UK Entry to the EEC 25th Anniversary 50p

In 1998 a new United Kingdom 50p was issued to commemorate 25 years since the UK joined the EEC.

Remarkably, this European-Union-inspired 50p coin is the subject of another numismatic first – the first ‘new sized’ commemorative 50p to be issued following the specification change in 1997.

The old larger coins were removed from circulation and it’s this new sized 50p that has featured some of our most iconic coin designs and has become the most collected coin in the world!

Designed by John Mills (designer of the much-loved 1994 D-Day 50p), the reverse of this coin shows 12 stars to represent the 12 ministers and had a circulating mintage of 5,043,000.

And there we have it! The UK’s relationship with the EU as told by coins!

It’s incredible to look back at some of the most ground-breaking 50p issues that are tied to this 47 year relationship.

Do you have any of these coins in your collection? Let us know in the comments below!


Brand new UK Brexit 50p – Secure yours today

As you would expect with a coin this historic the brand new UK Brexit 50p has been struck to superior Brilliant Uncirculated quality and protectively encapsulated in official Change Checker packaging to preserve its quality forever.

Mark this monumental day in British history and secure your 2020 UK Brexit 50p in CERTIFIED Brilliant Uncirculated quality for JUST £4.50 (+p&p) >>

Are you a collector of UK Royal coins?

From celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday, to marking Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837, Royal anniversaries, birthdays and achievements have been commemorated on UK coinage for centuries.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at what we believe to be the Top 10 UK Royal Coins of all time.


1. 2015 Longest Reigning Monarch £5

The Westminster Collection

As of 2020, HM Queen Elizabeth II became the world’s 5th longest reigning monarch! But in 2015, she became Britain’s, after 63 incredible years on the throne.

To celebrate this momentous occasion The Royal Mint issued a series of commemorative coins, including this 2015 Longest Reigning Monarch £5.

When news of the coin broke, it proved to be popular amongst coin collectors and fans of the Royal Family alike, with The Royal Mint’s website experiencing “overwhelming levels of traffic”. (The Royal Mint Blog)

Unusual in modern times, James Butler has designed both the reverse and the obverse of the coin. His new commemorative portrait of HM The Queen features on the obverse.

2. 2020 UK King George III £5

The Westminster Collection

Next up is the King George III £5 which was initially issued as part of the 2020 Annual Coin Set in January to celebrate the life and reign of Britain’s longest reigning King.

In commemoration of the 200th anniversary since his death, this is the first time that King George III has been celebrated on modern UK coinage – the last time he featured on a coin was 1820!

Included in the reverse design is the royal residence and his place of death, Windsor Palace as well as the King’s Observatory, which was founded by the King himself in 1769!

3. 2016 Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday £5

The Westminster Collection

As a nation, we’ve celebrated Her Majesty the Queen’s landmark birthdays, jubilees and wedding anniversaries during her long and eventful reign.

When Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to celebrate their 90th Birthday, the release of this £5 coin in 2016 was particularly special and hugely significant for collectors around the world.

This is the only official UK £5 coin to mark this special occasion and it features a design that was approved by The Queen herself! The 9 roses on the reverse, designed by Christopher Hobbs, each represent a decade of Her Majesty’s life.

4. 1838 The Young Head Sovereign

At just 18 years old, Alexandra Victoria acceded to the throne and ruled Britain for an incredible 63 years, making her Britain’s longest reigning monarch at the time of her death in 1901!

This was the very first Sovereign to be issued under Queen Victoria’s rule, issued in 1832, featuring the popular ‘Young Head’ portrait by William Wyon. This portrait was favoured by Victoria and contributed to the coin’s popularity through her reign.

To this day, it is the longest a portrait has featured on Britain’s circulating coinage having been issued on bronze coins up until 1895!

5. 1902 Edward VII Silver Crown

The Westminster Collection

The Edward VII 1902 Silver Crown was issued for one-year-only to celebrate Edward’s coronation – only 256,020 were ever struck. It was the last British crown struck for circulation!

This coin reflects a crucial period in British History, and celebrates the might and confidence of one of the most powerful leaders on earth.

6. 2008 Queen Elizabeth I £5

Numista

Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne on 17th November 1558 – a moment of triumph for the underestimated daughter of Henry VIII…

Under her rule, England went from an impoverished country torn apart by religious and political turbulence to the world’s dominant power with victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The Elizabethan era is often considered the golden age of English history with music, art and literature flourishing.

To commemorate 450 years since Elizabeth II’s accession, The Royal Mint issued this £5 in 2008 featuring a portrait of Elizabeth I within a mandorla created by four decorative arches and Tudor roses.

7. 2018 Four Generations of Royalty

The Westminster Collection

This Four Generations of Royalty £5 coin was highly anticipated since the moment HRH Prince George of Cambridge was born on 22nd July 2013.

This was the first time in modern years that The Royal Mint issued a coin that celebrated all four generations of royalty in line to the throne on a single coin. The last time that four generations of royalty were celebrated together was in 1894 under Queen Victoria’s reign!

The reverse design, by Timothy Noad, ornately shows the initials of the current four generations, E, C, W & G and represents the heritage of the House of Windsor.

8. 2000 Queen Mother Centenary £5

Change Checker

Anticipation of the imminent 100th birthday of HM the Queen Mother meant several countries released centenary coins as soon as she entered her 100th year rather than wait for her actual birthday on 4th August 2000.

The Royal Mint struck a £5 coin wholly designed by Ian Rank-Broadley, which included a reverse design of a left-facing profile of the Queen Mother wearing a diamond tiara with her signature underneath; this was the first time this had happened on a British coin!

9. 2017 Platinum Wedding Anniversary £5

The Westminster Collection

On 20th November 2017 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip celebrated their Platinum wedding anniversary, celebrating an unprecedented 70 years together!

To mark the longest marriage in Royal history, The Royal Mint issued a celebratory £5 coin in 2017. It features specially commissioned double portrait of the couple on the obverse, and an engraving of the two riding their much loved horses together on the reverse.

It is estimated just 60 people in the UK celebrated their Platinum Wedding Anniversary in the same year – meaning Her Majesty and HRH Prince Philip are literally one in a million!

10. 2018 Prince Charles 70th Birthday £5

The Westminster Collection

On the 14th November 2018 Prince Charles celebrated his 70th birthday.

To mark this special occasion and to celebrate the longest serving heir apparent, who has shown unwavering dedication to the British people, The Royal Mint issued this £5 coin.

The reverse features a new portrait of the prince, specially designed by Robert Elderton. It is the only official UK coin to have marked The Prince of Wales’ birthday!


Of course there have been so many other incredible UK Royal coins and narrowing it down to just 10 was a tough job, but we certainly feel these coins have got to be highlights!

Let us know which coins UK Royal coins would make it into your Top 10 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