1p – let’s look

Let’s look at the something we all see everyday but no one cares about!

The 1p coin has been around for 46 years now since we ditched the pound shilling and penny system but has been eroded in value by inflation over the past few decades from a level probably roughly equivalent to a contemporary 10 or 20p coin to the present throwaway token. In fact at the demonetisation of the decimal half-penny in 1984 it was probably worth very roughly twice the current 1p coin  ( I have taken these values from www.measuringworth.com and approximated them). It is also worth bearing in mind that the present penny despite being much smaller and of less intrinsic metallic value is worth 2.4 time more than the old pre-decimal penny in terms of its relationship to the pound.

Indeed since 1992, the intrinsic value of the coin has been reduced by the replacement of the bronze alloy with a copper plated steel disc presumably to reduce costs of production at the mint. There have been several calls over the years to scrap the 1p coin entirely and round up the odd value transactions – for instance this story I covered a few years ago.

The present incarnation of the coin features the reverse design by Matthew Dent featuring a portion of the royal crest (and if you look closely his initials hidden in the dots at the bottom of the picture shown below)

Reverse of the UK 1p coin 2008 onwards
Matthew Dent design of the 1p coin

The coin set released in 2008 in which each coin featured a part of the royal crest and the pound coin displayed the whole shield was criticized at the time for not including the denomination in numeral but only in words as seen above.  It doesn’t bother me – these little changes are part of the interest in studying coins but perhaps there are other interest groups that have more practical objections?

The design is, to my eye, quite appealing and features a segment of the left hand portion of the Royal Shield. The top corner of the Irish Harp and the bottom corner of the English Lions are visible. Another criticism of the set when it was launched was the absence of a Welsh symbol on any of the coins (there is no Welsh icon on the Royal Shield). Given that the designer was welsh and the the coins are minted exclusively in Wales this raised some eyebrows.

What I dislike about the more recent smaller denomination pieces is the composition of steel plated in very thin copper or nickel. It looks nice as it rolls off the production line I’m sure and the Royal Mint indicates that their armour plating technology is likely to last for 25-30 years in circulation. However, my personal experience is that after sometimes just 2 or 3 years, there are areas of wear where the steel is exposed and rust is starting to form which in my opinion detracts significantly from the appeal of the coin. Under high magnification, I have seen them at 1-2 years old and retaining less detail than the older alloy versions.


Leave a Reply