List of metals used for British coins

Started by UK Decimal +, March 03, 2011, 01:13:24 PM

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UK Decimal +

I am trying to compile a list of all metals and combination of metals for British coins, circulation, commemorative and bullion, used since about the year 1600.   This is an attempt to create a simple reference coding that can be used for indexing.   An inner/outer combination is needed for bimetallic issues.   The 'percentage mix' (e.g. 75% copper + 25% nickel) is not necessary, as some of the older coins might be described as 'rather doubtful' in their purity.   If only used in the Islands (Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, etc.) please say, for possible future use.

I will start it off with the following, which will show the kind of information that I am looking for -

Brass    (3d 1937-1967/70)
Copper-plated Steel   
Nickel-plated Steel   (New 5p and 10p)

INNER                  OUTER
Cupro-Nickel   Nickel-Brass   (£2 decimal)

In some cases the coins involved might be worth quoting, as above.

Thanks in advance,


P.S. A couple of our members might know what is behind this, but please don't make it public at this stage.
Ilford, Essex, near London, England.

People look for problems and complain.   Engineers find solutions but people still complain.


Not close to my books, but I seem to remember lead, zinc and copper with a zinc plug farthings (?)

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


Yes, Peter has it. James II farthing tin with copper plug KM# 447, Charles II farthing, tin with copper plug KM# 436.2, William III & William + Mary ditto.


I would add that the composition of the 20p differs from that of other cupronickel UK coins.


Dunno if this is remotely useful, but I have a shorthand for composition as follows:

I use the chemical symbol where a pure metal is involved, or two (at a pinch three) are combined. For silver and gold I'll use the per mille fineness as well, where known.
For other alloys I invent a two-character abbreviation that looks like a chemical symbol (or may even be one -- but it isn't confusing because AFAIK there are no coins made of niobium).

So, I have the following:
Au (e.g. Au916 for 22-carat gold)
Ag (e.g. Ag925 for sterling silver)

Mixtures, e.g.:
CuAg for billon
CuNiZn for that yellowish copper-nickel used by the USSR
AeNb for e.g. Belgian 20-franc coins of the 1980s and French 10-franc coins of the same era

Other alloy symbols:
Ae (bronze)
Nb (nickel-brass)
St (steel)

For sandwich or plated coins, I use e.g. Cu=St for modern UK coppers, where the first is the outer and the second the inner. (I tend to handwrite it with three lines, to denote the layers, but can never be bothered to find the ≡ sign on the computer.)

For bimetallics, I use e.g. Nb/copper-nickel for the UK £2, where the first is the outer ring and the second the inner.

I haven't extended the system cogently to other substances, such as plastic or the pressed card that BAF penny and halfpenny tokens are made of, preferring to describe them longhand.


Use NB for nickel-brass as Nb is niobium
I am not aware of any issued British coin made purely of zinc nor, indeed, of lead, aluminium or pure nickel.
Silver and gold have been used with varying degrees of fineness over the years.

For further information on metals used in coins worldwide see my web page


A number of Isle of Man 1733 pennies and halfpennies were minted in Bath metal (KM#3b and 5b).