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Decimal Currency Trials

Started by Deeman, October 28, 2022, 08:40:23 PM

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Deeman

Decimal trial currency set, series 1:

Plain obverse, numerical value on reverse.
20p cupro-nickel, grained edge grained, 36mm diameter, weight 22.77g.
10p cupro-nickel, grained edge, 28.5mm diameter, weight 11.39g.
5p cupro-nickel, grained edge, 24mm diameter, weight 6.02g.
2p bronze, plain edge, 26mm diameter, weight 7.10g.
1p bronze, plain edge, 20mm diameter, weight 3.56g.
Halfpenny, bronze, plain edge, 17mm diameter, weight 2.00g.



The 2p and 1p in this set are identical in composition, size and weight to those in circulation. This set represents the coinage actually recommended by the Committee in their report, it being a 'given' that the florin and shilling had to retain their existing size, shape and value at 10p and 5p respectively, while the weight of a 20p was similarly a 'given' although the large size of the coin was seen as a disadvantage.

Deeman

Decimal trial currency set, series 2:

Tower Mint logo on obverse, numerical value on reverse.
50p cupro-nickel, plain edge, 32mm diameter, weight 16.17g.
20p cupro-nickel, grained edge grained, 25mm diameter, weight 6.41g.
10p yellow alloy, grained edge, 28mm diameter, weight 11.21g.
5p yellow alloy, grained edge, 23.5mm diameter, weight 5.59g.
2p yellow alloy, grained edge, 18mm diameter, weight 2.23g.
1p bronze, plain edge, 21.5mm diameter, weight 4.42g.
Farthing, aluminium, plain edge, 20mm diameter, weight 1.16g.



Although the Committee was much influenced by the economy of having a two-tier system of coinage denominations, the members also foresaw an eventual need to go to three tiers if significant inflation occurred. A scenario which would see the eventual disappearance from circulation of the sixpence was the genesis of the idea behind the pieces which replace the copper 2p with a coin in direct weight-value relation to the 5p, yielding an elegant three-tier solution and using yellow alloy for the intermediate tier. Almost certainly the Committee would have recommended a three-tier solution had the pace of inflation prior to decimalisation been foreseen and it seems very likely that it would have formed the present coinage. Apparently, there was also a type 2 halfpenny made which appears to have been lost without trace.

Deeman

Trial twelve-sided 50p

Cupro-nickel flan, plain edge, numerical mark of value both sides, 29mm diameter, weight 13.8g.


Deeman

Trial ten-sided 50p

Cupro-nickel flan, plain edge, numerical mark of value both sides, 29.5mm diameter, weight 12.33g.


Deeman

Trial seven-sided 50p

Cupro-nickel flan, plain edge, numerical mark of value both sides, 30mm diameter, weight 13.63g.


<k>

#5
Quote from: Deeman on October 28, 2022, 08:40:23 PMDecimal trial currency set, series 1:

Plain obverse, numerical value on reverse.
20p cupro-nickel, grained edge grained, 36mm diameter, weight 22.77g.
10p cupro-nickel, grained edge, 28.5mm diameter, weight 11.39g.
5p cupro-nickel, grained edge, 24mm diameter, weight 6.02g.
2p bronze, plain edge, 26mm diameter, weight 7.10g.
1p bronze, plain edge, 20mm diameter, weight 3.56g.
Halfpenny, bronze, plain edge, 17mm diameter, weight 2.00g.



This set represents the coinage actually recommended by the Committee in their report

the weight of a 20p - was seen as a disadvantage.

Certainly it would have been ridiculous if we had had a 20 pence coin with a diameter of 36 mm.

Perhaps a coin of that large size would have been accepted in the pre-decimal era, but part of the task of the decimal coins was to reduce the size and weight of the coinage. For instance, the pre-decimal penny was a massive thing, with a diameter of 30.8 mm. By contrast, the decimal penny, even though it was worth 2.4 pre-decimal pence, had a diameter of only 20.3 mm - a vast improvement. The 5 and 10 pence were kept relatively large at first, of course, to match the dimensions of the 1 shilling and 2 shillings respectively and to ease the changeover. Quite why it took the Royal Mint so long to reduce the size of the 5 and 10 pence (1990 and 1992 respectively) is another story.

The other point is that the 20 pence coin we eventually got was much smaller than 36 mm and also 7-sided. The old pre-decimal brass 3 pence coin had got the British used to polygonal coins. Including a polygonal coin in a set is useful, because the more differences there are between coins, the less likely it is that people will confuse them with one another.

It is a habit with committees to include impractical options, just so they can say that all bases have been covered. A 20 pence coin of 36 mm diameter was just such an option and was destined to be thrown out at step one.

It is notable that there is no 50 pence coin in this set. However, at the time of these plans, the 10 shilling note was still in circulation, because 10 shillings was still a considerable amount of money back then and would have bought a lot more than the modern 2 pound coin, which is currently our highest denomination.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

Do you know in which year series 1 and 2 were presented, Deeman?

Originally there were provisional plans to have a decimal unit equivalent to 10 shillings, which would have been divided into 100 subunits. However, the City (London's finance industry) did not like this idea at all. For them, the high value pound was a virility symbol. Were series 1 and 2 presented as part of this half-pound system?
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

Quote from: Deeman on October 28, 2022, 08:41:55 PMDecimal trial currency set, series 2:

Tower Mint logo on obverse, numerical value on reverse.
50p cupro-nickel, plain edge, 32mm diameter, weight 16.17g.
20p cupro-nickel, grained edge grained, 25mm diameter, weight 6.41g.
10p yellow alloy, grained edge, 28mm diameter, weight 11.21g.
5p yellow alloy, grained edge, 23.5mm diameter, weight 5.59g.
2p yellow alloy, grained edge, 18mm diameter, weight 2.23g.
1p bronze, plain edge, 21.5mm diameter, weight 4.42g.
Farthing, aluminium, plain edge, 20mm diameter, weight 1.16g.



Apparently, there was also a type 2 halfpenny made which appears to have been lost without trace.

This three tier system looks good. The pre-decimal system had three tiers, since the brass 3 pence coin represented a tier of its own. The more differences there are between coins, the less likely it is that people will confuse them with one another.

Undoubtedly the lost half penny would have belonged to the penny tier - round and bronze.

The British population would not have accepted an aluminium farthing, you can be sure of that.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

Originally, then, large 10-sided and 12-sided 50 pence coins were considered. The pre-decimal brass 3 pence coin was 12-sided, but a large polygon would still have been a novelty at that point. Of course, nowadays we have a smaller 12-sided pound coin.

The 7-sided coin was perhaps a lucky choice, given the current trend of what I call "heptagon mania". The coin can be said to have a visible top and bottom end, compared to the 10-sided and 12-sided options.

I have also read that coins with an odd number of edges roll readily in vending machines. That is not the case with coins with an even number of edges. The 12-sided pound coin had to be tweaked so that it would roll in vending machines. Perhaps it should have been made with 13 sides, but then superstitious people would have refused to accept it.  :D
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

Alan71

The Bank of England did prepare a 50p note, but I wonder how serious the intention to issue it ever was.

What I do find interesting is that the 20p was part of the trials all along, and yet in the end took 11 years from decimalisation to introduce.  Was it a case of not knowing/agreeing a size to use?

Decimalisation did provide an opportunity to reduce the size of the coinage, but by removing the half crown and temporarily not having anything between the 10p and 50p, it must have increased it?

The 20p as issued was a radical coin.  Less than half the weight of the 10p and lighter than the 5p, it didn't even have a weight-value relationship with its same-tier sister coin, the 50p.  Even today, with three surrounding denominations shrunk, it's still small!

<k>

Quote from: Alan71 on December 02, 2022, 04:16:14 PMWhat I do find interesting is that the 20p was part of the trials all along, and yet in the end took 11 years from decimalisation to introduce.  Was it a case of not knowing/agreeing a size to use?

From what I read of old Royal Mint documents in the National Archives, it was felt that too many new coins should not be introduced at once. There was no clamour for a 20 pence coin, because there was no coin of an equal value in the pre-decimal coinage at that time. Also, it would have been quite a high value coin at the time. I remember the Sun newspaper costing around 3 pence in 1971. It was only as the 1970s advanced and we got high inflation (around 26% in 1975) that higher denominations were thought to be needed.

Also, there was quite a gap between the old half crown (12½ pence in today's terms) and the 10 shilling note (50 pence in today's terms). There was a similar gap between the 10 pence and the 50 pence coins, but I never heard anybody complain about it in the 1970s.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

Quote from: Alan71 on December 02, 2022, 04:16:14 PMThe Bank of England did prepare a 50p note, but I wonder how serious the intention to issue it ever was.

Some dependencies did issue a 50 pence note, including the Isle of Man, St. Helena and the Falklands.

Quote from: Alan71 on December 02, 2022, 04:16:14 PMDecimalisation did provide an opportunity to reduce the size of the coinage, but by removing the half crown and temporarily not having anything between the 10p and 50p, it must have increased it?

Hard to say. At first there were not a whole lot of 50 pence coins in circulation, as it was a high-worth coin. In those days you could certainly buy more with it than with a 2 pound coin nowadays.

Given that the 50 pence coin was the only one of its sort at the time, it could have been made roughly the same size as the later 20 pence without causing confusion. It is almost as if a gap was deliberately left for a future 20 pence coin. In fact, I read that a 22 mm gap was left for a future round 20 pence coin. The actually issued 20 pence coin is much more stylish for being heptagonal, I think.

Quote from: Alan71 on December 02, 2022, 04:16:14 PMThe 20p as issued was a radical coin.  Less than half the weight of the 10p and lighter than the 5p, it didn't even have a weight-value relationship with its same-tier sister coin, the 50p.  Even today, with three surrounding denominations shrunk, it's still small!

Yes, it has withstood the test of time very well.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

Alan71

I read once that a 50p in 1969 or 1971 would be like having a coin worth £8.50 today.  That was a while ago so might be about £10 now!

A £20 note then must have been worth at least £200 now. I'd feel quite uncomfortable carrying that amount around!

The 20p coin probably helped to delay the reduction in size of the 5p and 10p.  The 10p was not issued into circulation for 10 years prior to being made smaller.  It might never have needed to be issued again, as millions lay idle in bank vaults.  The 5p similarly had a break from 1981 to 1986, though that was nothing to do with the 20p.  The £1 did affect the 50p.

Size reductions might have come sooner had the 20p and £1 not been such major successes.  Also they probably wanted a gap before making the changes.

Deeman

Quote from: <k> on December 02, 2022, 01:53:45 PMDo you know in which year series 1 and 2 were presented, Deeman?

1966

<k>

Quote from: Deeman on December 02, 2022, 08:07:41 PM1966

So by then it had already been decided that the pound would be retained at its original value and not split in half for convenience's sake.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.