Coins - Clearing up confusion as history moves on

The new 50 pence piece and the commemorative crown

New commemorative coins featuring the portrait of King Charles have been revealed by the Royal Mint; a crown and a 50p coin which will be available within weeks. These coins will be sold to collectors by the Royal Mint from this next week. The standard nickel-plated steel 50p coin will be available for general use well before the end of the year, distributed by banks, building societies and post offices.

From the start of next year, coins from the 1p to the £2 used in day-to-day life will be minted carrying the same image of King Charles. They’ll be sent out when needed to replace damaged and worn older coins and to cover any extra demand. They’ll circulate along with coins featuring the late Queen.

Don’t worry if you have coins with the Queen on

Those 27 billion coins with Elizabeth II’s image will still be accepted in shops and other outlets. Although very many people use cards, phones and online payment, there is a significant number of people who like to use coins as well. Try putting a credit card in a coin slot machine while the kid is fretting to have his or her ride in an amusement park… I firmly expect that the next generation will have coins from Elizabeth II, Charles II and William V jangling together in their pockets.

Before decimalisation, it was common for people to carry coins featuring different monarchs in their pockets. As a child, I used coins from the reigns of George V and George VI as well as Elizabeth II. Sometimes the odd Queen Victoria one would pop up in my change!

Top: 1951 old penny (1d, from Latin denarius) from George VI   Bottom: 1919 old penny from George V. Both were 31mm (1.22″) in diameter (Author photo)

The coins above were those I saved from my purse in the year before decimalisation was upon us. The old penny was withdrawn in 1971 and replaced in effect by the decimal half new penny, with 1⁄2p being worth 1.2d. Luckily, although the UK Treasury continued to argue that the new halfpenny was important in the fight against inflation (preventing prices from being rounded up), those wretched little washers were withdrawn in 1984 to the relief of all fed up with them getting stuck in the corners of purses and wallets. 

The last pre-decimal set of UK coins 1970: half-crow, two shillings (also known as florins), shilling (English and Scottish versions), sixpence, threepenny bit, penny and halfpenny (Author photo)

We still have expressions like sing a ‘song of sixpence’, ‘The Threepenny Opera’, ‘half-a-crown’ as a bingo call for 26 (a half crown was written 2/6), and ‘being cut off without a shilling’, but I think these and other references may fade away.

In the meantime, just keep using the coins in your pocket – they’re fine!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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