Author Topic: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage  (Read 4450 times)

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Offline <k>

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In May 1979 Mrs Thatcher's government came to power in the UK. The Royal Mint contacted the Treasury at an early date to discuss the future of the UK coinage. The discussions went through various phases. Early suggestions included the introduction of a 25p coin; bronze 20p/25p and 50p coins; and the possibility of a 2 pound note. Predictably the Treasury did not like the idea of bronze 20p/25p and 50p coins, as it would suggest the depreciation of the currency.
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2017, 01:25:52 PM »
I will post images of some of the early suggestions, as taken from the documents of the time.

The demonetisation of the 1p coin, without a simultaneous demonetisation of the 2p coin, is of course ridiculous, if you still retained a 5p coin.
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2017, 01:26:59 PM »
More. The suggestions changed, in some cases, as the discussion progressed.
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2017, 01:27:44 PM »
More.
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2017, 01:29:06 PM »
A 2 pound note was eventually ruled out. That, of course, would have been a matter for the Bank of England, not the Royal Mint.
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Offline <k>

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Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

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Offline FosseWay

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2017, 01:53:43 PM »
Very interesting that they already in 1979 were planning for the removal of the penny. Also very strange that they were planning to remove the penny before the twopence. It strikes me as obvious that you've got to either remove both, leaving the 5p as the lowest denomination, or neither, or just the 2p (which, if accompanied by a change to the penny (e.g. minting in aluminium) would reduce the total weight of the coinage). Removing the penny but not the twopence just ends up with people giving change for change. No sum is arithmetically impossible to tender, but it is needlessly complicated for retailers and customers. Is there anywhere that has had a 2-unit coin without also having a 1 and/or 3?

The predictions for introducing the £1 and removing the sixpence and the halfpenny were pretty accurate. On the other hand, the resizing of the 5p and 10p actually occurred 5 or more years after the prediction. Given the low total mintages of those coins between 1981 and 1990/92, it seems clear that a change was needed. So why did it take till 1990 to sort it out?

Offline Figleaf

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2017, 02:12:18 PM »
The discussions above lead me to think that there were at least two tribes of officials:
  • Change as little as you can. This tribe prevailed and apparently kept on going long after the changeover.
  • Re-think the whole series, starting from scratch.
Typically, the first tribe would be elder officials, theoretically inclined, deciders in last instance and brilliant in the art of covering their backs, while the second one would be younger, practice-oriented and more energetic pen-holders, unaware they were sticking out their necks, setting the tone by making proposals, only to see them decimated by their overlords. "Yes (prime) minister" could have made an episode on this, with Sir Humphrey Appleby wanting a 5/6th new penny to ease the transition. :)

The contrast with the introduction of the euro coin series is great. In that instance, the re-thinkers beat the traditionalist. Easy enough if you are dealing with many different traditions.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2017, 08:08:50 PM »
The contrast with the introduction of the euro coin series is great. In that instance, the re-thinkers beat the traditionalist. Easy enough if you are dealing with many different traditions.

You're not contrasting like with like there, though. The decimal system kept the 5p and 10p at the same respective sizes as the shilling and florin, to aid the transition. In addition, in 1979 the sixpence was still circulating. The Mint had to negotiate various constraints. In the event, the new coins were very successful, because everybody knew what they were and they were easily distinguishable, despite the very few millimetres difference in their diameters from other coins It would have been interesting to see what they would have done with a clean slate, such as the euro had.

Maybe some of our members would like to say how they would design a totally new UK coin set from scratch, if they had a free rein to decide size, shape, metal, denominations and design.
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2017, 08:11:04 PM »
the resizing of the 5p and 10p actually occurred 5 or more years after the prediction. Given the low total mintages of those coins between 1981 and 1990/92, it seems clear that a change was needed. So why did it take till 1990 to sort it out?

I have no answer for that. I first saw various options presented in the Royal Mint bulletin (sent out to coin collector customers) of Christmas 1985. Then I waited, and waited, and waited.  :-X
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2017, 09:13:38 PM »
I have no answer for that. I first saw various options presented in the Royal Mint bulletin (sent out to coin collector customers) of Christmas 1985. Then I waited, and waited, and waited.  :-X

Yes, I received (and still have) the same booklet. I can understand that a consultation begun in 1985 would take until 1990 to start to be implemented on the ground. The new information in the research you've shown in this thread is that this was all already being talked about in 1979. My question is therefore not why it took five years after publishing the options, but rather why it took them six years to publish the options in the first place. Even decimalisation barely had that kind of lead time, and the euro certainly didn't.

Offline Alan71

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The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2017, 09:21:14 PM »
An 18.5 mm 10p.  That's surely almost as radical as some of the possibilities later revealed!

Are we surmising that the slow-down in inflation made some of these changes less pressing?


(From an old topic)
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 09:39:33 PM by Alan71 »

Offline SandyGuyUK

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2017, 10:00:24 PM »
Maybe some of our members would like to say how they would design a totally new UK coin set from scratch, if they had a free rein to decide size, shape, metal, denominations and design.

I have been having a think about this and would go for the following given completely free rein:

DenominationApprox. DiameterColour/CompositionShapeApprox. Weight
5p18mmRed (Copper-plated steel)Scalloped edge2g
10p22mmRed (Copper-plated steel)Round4g
20p20mmWhite (Nickel-plated steel)Heptagonal3g
50p24mmWhite (Nickel-plated steel)Octagonal6g
£123mmYellow/White (Bimetallic)Round7g
£225mmWhite/Yellow (Bimetallic)Round9g
£528mmWhite/Yellow/Red (Triimetallic)Decagonal11g

I've tried to think about ensuring that the system is useful, easy to differentiate by sight/feel and not too heavy.  I don't see why we shouldn't think about more use of bi-metallic or even tri-metallic (as per the old French 20Fr coin) and maybe some other shapes as well rather than just Heptagonal, Dodecagonal or Round.

I would still keep a 5p for the time being given that to lose it could be inflationary, but definitely think we should be looking for a circulating £5 coin and so have opted for a smaller size than say the Manx versions (either old or new).

Any other thoughts on this or other suggestions?
Ian
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2017, 10:09:51 PM »
Hertfordian has thought along the same lines as I was doing, though I hadn't thought of an octagonal 50p. I would probably retain the heptagonal shape for both "silver" coins.

I don't really agree with the current philosophy that all coins must be as small and light as possible. Sometimes it seems that the only reason any coins are bigger than 25 mm and weigh more than 6-7 g is because of the physical impossibility of shoehorning a full range of denominations into the available spectrum (say minimum 17.5 mm). It always feels as if anything larger is made grudgingly.

Now I fully understand the desire to keep the total weight down, but in the case of a £5 coin there would never be any pressing need for someone to carry more than one, max. two, of them around. The Irish £1 coin was a handsome beast, and being quite thin it wasn't actually all that heavy. The Swiss 5 francs and the old 5 DM coins were also imposing coins and AFAIK do/did not cause the public problems.

Offline Alan71

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Re: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2017, 10:16:44 PM »
I'm not sure any changes are needed for now.  The 1p and 2p might go at some point but I don't see the point in changing the rest of them for the sake of it.  The Royal Mint passed up an opportunity to change the 5p and 10p again when they retained the same sizes and weights for the nickel-plated coins.  We still don't know if Isle of Man's £5 coin will circulate.  I doubt it will.  And whilst Gibraltar and Isle of Man are ignoring 1p and 2p in sets, neither have announced they will withdraw them from circulation.

If anything, these documents that <k>'s posted indicate that, whilst radical plans for the coinage existed, the actual changes were much more conservative. And the UK, in turn, has been much more radical than countries like Australia that are still using its £sd-derived coins.