Someone’s going to need a bigger pocket

The Royal Mint has been commissioned by a private collector to make a unique coin commemorating Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It is the largest coin produced by the Royal Mint in its 1,100 year history. But with a weight of 15 kilos and a face value of £15,000, it’s unlikely you’ll see it in your change at the newsagents.

It took 400 hours to make and it’s very hard to put a figure on its real value because there is simply nothing else like it. The front depicts the royal insignia surrounded by symbols of the four home nations while the reverse shows the queen on horseback.

Coining It In

Imagine if you didn’t spend any of the change you received in coins. Instead you put it into a ‘sovereign’ size champagne bottle holding 25 litres (equivalent to 33 standard bottles). It takes you five years but in the end you do fill it up. How much money have you saved?

While the answer might be slightly different if you’re using UK currency, one Austrian user of the social media platform, Reddit, has given us a guide. He photographed his haul and invited others to guess the total value of all the euro, two euro and various cents he’d amassed. Their estimates varied between €430 and €2,500 were way off. The actual amount was roughly €7,000 or £5,900.

This is partly because several coins are worth more than face value. A number are special commemorative coins and others (from the Vatican City State or San Marino) are comparatively rare.

A chance to cash in on the cashless society? Possibly. You might need to save up for that 25 litre champagne bottle first…

Serial Thrillers

It would be a terrible omission to mention collecting banknotes (as we did on last week’s blog) without a follow up post one of the most collectable aspects of notaphily: serial numbers. Significant sums have changed hands for the rights to own notes which are considered to bear statistically significant numbers. Take the example of the (then new) £10 note issued in 2017 featuring Jane Austen. Because one eagle eyed opportunist spotted that the serial number began AH (a rare prefix) and contained 1775, the year of Austen’s birth. It sold on Ebay for £3,600.

Several online articles appeared in the wake of the sale, speculating that serial numbers containing the exact date of her birth or death might also fetch “thousands”. Readers were also advised to be on the lookout for notes featuring the prefixes JA01 and JA75 but reports of how much money could be made were certainly exaggerated and haven’t been borne out by events.

It’s generally accepted that sound advice is to watch out for the lowest serial number for any new note. There is a queue since convention dictates that number AA01 000001 is always given to the Queen and the next few are often distributed to the heir apparent and leading figures in the government. However, any number below 200 could fetch good money at auction so it’s almost worth seeing every banknote as a potential lottery ticket. Good luck!

Another Royal Milestone

It was six years ago that Her Majesty became the longest serving British monarch, overtaking her illustrious great-great grandmother Victoria. Of course, since then she has been gloriously breaking her own personal best on a daily basis.

She will celebrate her next regal landmark in a month’s time. Although she wouldn’t be crowned until 2 June 1953, she became the British Head of State de facto on the death of her father, George VI. On 6 February this year, she will therefore have been our queen for a full seventy years.

At a time when any number of commercial brands are trumpeting about their own anniversaries (World Nutella Day anyone?), it is reassuring to know that we can still rely on the Royal Mint to focus on matters of substance.

And so we have this series of really stunning new coins to mark her Platinum Jubilee year. Available through the Royal Mint’s own website, they include what is, perhaps surprisingly, the first fifty pence coin celebrating a royal event. This year’s annual set also includes fitting tributes to Dame Vera Lynn, Alexander Graham Bell and this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The 2p Coin Worth (Much!) More Than Its Weight In Gold

It’s just possible that the shrapnel at the bottom of your wallet, pocket or purse could be hiding a small windfall. If there’s a 2p coin in there from the year 1983 with the words ‘New Pence’ on the other side then put it someone you won’t spend it. While there aren’t many still around, prices regularly exceed £400 – more depending on the condition. That’s because the Royal Mint had inscribed all 2p coins with the words ‘New Pence’ until 1981. It was decided that this should subsequently become ‘Two Pence’ instead but in 1983 a small number were released with the old ‘New Pence’ inscription. It’s unlikely you’ll get a coin like this in your change but it might be worth checking old piggy banks or the back of the sofa!

Easier to spot is an undated 20 pence coins which entered circulation in 2008. An error at the Royal Mint saw the first undated coins for over three centuries entered circulation. Usually worth over £200, it’s thought that there are anywhere up to 200,000 out there somewhere…

Sovereign State

One of our traders recently had a couple of superb coins to show off so we were keen to show them off on the blog.

First up is this beautifully preserved gold sovereign from 1872. Sporting William Wyon’s ‘young head’ portrait of Queen Victoria on the obverse and the classic shield design on the reverse, it is rare to see one in such excellent condition. Prices for such a coin usually begin at around £425.

A counterfeit detector using two tests (weight and fit) to determine authenticity. A fake might pass one test but fail the other.

Also particularly noteworthy is this mint condition Isaac Newton fifty pence from 2018. The design was produced throughout 2017 before being changed at the end of the year. However, the Royal Mint offered visitors the chance to strike their own Newton fifty pence and take it away in a display pack. This promotion only ran for the first three months of 2018 so, with a maximum of just ten of these being produced an hour, numbers are therefore very limited.

This Penny Won’t Drop

The rarest British coin of the 20th century will surprise many since that distinction belongs to a humble penny. Thanks to an excess of the coin still in circulation by 1932, the following year the Royal Mint didn’t produce any at all – or almost.

For some time there had been a tradition of placing a full set of coins of the realm under the foundation stones of important buildings as they were being built. To facilitate this, a very few were struck featuring Britannia on one side and King George V on the other. The year ‘1933’ was the only thing that would distinguish them from preceding or subsequent years. For a time this prompted attempts to create forgeries which would dupe unsuspecting buyers into believing they were buying one of perhaps just seven such coins in the world. When one of the ‘pattern’ coins (a prototype not used for production) recently came up for auction it sold for £72,000. The currency coins are believed to be worth much more but are now all in museums or private hands.

[squawk]…pieces of eight…

Possibly the most memorable words ever spoken by a bird, this phrase references the divisions of a Spanish dollar which many experts regard as the world’s first international currency. It was first minted in the Spanish Empire in 1497 but this example is a Mexico City coin of 1736, one of a number found in the Rooswijck shipwreck off Goodwin Sands. Long John Silver’s parrot, (named Captain Flint, take note: pub quiz buffs) is referring to the fact that it was worth 8 reals. The number 8 appears on the coin’s face and it was not unknown for it to be physically cut up into eight pieces (which was not then an offence). Because of its high silver content, the metal was relatively soft and dividing it like this allowed for change to be created. At 38mm across, it was also the largest of the Spanish silver coins.

Actual treasure from an actual shipwreck…Charing Cross Market: the home of collecting.

When Galloping Inflation Hits Lightspeed

To a child, it’s an obvious answer: if you don’t have enough money, just print some more! Although the perils of such a simplistic solution – hyperinflation and economic implosion – were long known in theory, it hasn’t stopped some governments from doing it, most famously Weimar Germany. The consequences for ordinary people were catastrophic: life savings wiped out in a week, wages collected in suitcases, the price of a coffee going up between the time it was ordered and the arrival of the bill, stoves being lit with banknotes…the examples are startling.

Naturally, the banknotes of the period tell their own story. Previously inconceivable denominations were printed (and in some cases overprinted!). The highest amount from the Weimar period is the 100 trillion mark note (pictured) but much more recently, Zimbabwe printed its own 100 trillion dollar version. Most sobering of all is just how much these notes are worth to collectors today. The Zimbabwean note can be had for around £40 while Weimar-era currency often change hands for as little as a few pounds.

Caveat Eator

Normally we’re big fans of putting our money where our mouth is but on this occasion we’d recommend a modicum of caution. It’s only natural for everyone to want as big a helping as they can manage after Christmas dinner in the hope that they will be the one guaranteed good luck for the next year but no-one wants to watch the Queen’s Speech in their local A and E. Even a pound coin can be easy to miss if you’re – somehow – still ravenous. But if you’re going for that really authentic touch by using a silver sixpence (available at all good collectors markets in the Charing Cross area this Saturday from 7am till 2pm), you need to be even more careful. Not only is it a good deal thinner, it’s worth much more than a pound.

Take note though: post war sixpences contain no silver at all. Only the ones minted between 1920 and 1946 were struck in 50% silver. Before 1920 that figure was 92.5%.

EDIT: Thank you to Peter Hicks who pointed out on our Facebook page that it was actually a silver 3d that was inserted into puddings. The sixpence was for new brides on their wedding day.