Penny (British decimal coin)
|Value||0.01 pound sterling|
|Thickness||(Bronze) 1.52 mm|
(Steel) 1.65 mm
Copper-plated steel (1992–)
|Years of minting||1971–present|
|Design||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Design||Segment of the Royal Shield|
The British decimal one penny (1p) coin, usually simply known as a penny, is a unit of currency equalling one one-hundredth of a pound sterling. The penny's symbol is p. Its obverse has featured the profile of Queen Elizabeth II since the coin's introduction on 15 February 1971, the day British currency was decimalised. Four different portraits of the Queen have been used on the obverse, with the latest design by Jody Clark being introduced in 2015. The second and current reverse, designed by Matthew Dent, features a segment of the Royal Shield and was introduced in 2008. The penny is the lowest value coin (in real terms) to ever circulate in the United Kingdom.
The penny was originally minted from bronze, but since 1992 it has been minted in copper-plated steel due to the increasing price of copper. One pence coins are legal tender only up to the sum of 20p; this means that it is permissible to refuse payment of sums greater than 20p in 1p coins, in order to settle a debt. However, since the strict legal definitions of terms like "legal tender" do not apply to most everyday transactions (such as paying for goods in shops) these rules seldom apply in everyday life.
As of 31 March 2016 there were an estimated 11.43 billion 1p coins in circulation, with a total face value of around £114,299,000.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Manufacture
- 4 Status
- 5 Mintages
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The word penny is derived from the Old English word penig, which itself comes from the proto-Germanic panninga. The correct plural form for multiple 1p coins is pennies (e.g. fifty pennies). The correct term for monetary amounts of pennies greater than 1p is pence (e.g. one pound and twenty pence).
Prior to 1971, the United Kingdom had been using the pounds, shilling and pence as a currency system. However, it was announced by Chancellor James Callaghan on 1 March 1966 that Britain was to decimalise its currency, meaning one pound would be subdivided into 100 pence, instead of the 240 pence that was previously the case. This required new coins to be minted, to replace the pre-decimal ones. The new 1p pieces began production in December 1968 in the newly built Royal Mint facility in Llantrisant, South Wales. 2000 million decimal 1p and 2p coins were stuck here in preparation for the decimal day. On 15 February 1971, the United Kingdom officially switched to a decimal currency and the new 1p coins entered circulation.
The coin was originally minted in bronze (composed of 97% copper, 2.5% zinc, 0.5% tin) between 1971 and September 1992. However, increasing world metal prices necessitated a change of composition. Since 1992, the coin is minted in steel and electroplated in copper. Thus, they are magnetic. Soaring world prices for copper had caused the value of the pre 1992 copper 1p coin to exceed 1 pence. For example, in May 2006, the intrinsic metal value of a pre-1992 1p coin was about 1.5 pence. However, melting coins is illegal in the UK, and is punishable by a fine, or up to 2 years imprisonment.
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To date, four different obverses have been used, all of which feature a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The outer inscription on the coin is ELIZABETH II D.G.REG.F.D. 2013, where 2013 is replaced by the year of minting. In the original design both sides of the coin are encircled by dots, a common feature on coins, known as beading.
Anticipation of a switch to a decimalised currency led go the commissioning of a new Royal Portrait by artist Arnold Machin, which was approved by the Queen in 1964. This featured the Queen wearing the 'Girls of Great Britain and Ireland' Tiara and was used until 1984. A modified form of this portrait has appeared on British Postage stamps since 1967.
Between 1985 and 1997 a portrait by Raphael Maklouf was used. The portrait is couped and depicts the Queen wears the George IV State Diadem. Unlike previous portraits, the Queen is wearing jewellery, earrings and a necklace. The initials of Maklouf RDM are shown below the neck of the Queen. His middle name, David, is included so that the mark is not confused for the initials of the Royal Mint.
In 1997, a competition to design the obverse of the 1997 Golden Wedding crown - a coin issued to celebrate the Queen and Prince Philip's 50th wedding anniversary - was held. The standard of entry was so high that following this competition, the Royal Mint held another to design the new portrait. Ian Rank-Broadley won this competition, and his design was used between 1998 and 2015. His design featured again featured the tiara, with a signature-mark IRB below the portrait. The depiction of the queen was seen as more realistic, with Rank Broadley himself saying "There is no need to flatter her. She is a 70-year-old woman with poise and bearing".
In 2014, the Royal Mint again held a competition to design a new portrait. Designer Jody Clark won this competition, with a portrait of the Queen wearing the George IV State Diadem and the initials JC feature under the neck of the Queen. The portrait was sketched without an official sitting, only using reference material for inspiration.
Despite no official government confirmation of a switch to decimalised currency, the Royal Mint began the design process for decimal coins in 1962. They invited the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Faculty of the Royal Designers for Industry and the Royal College of Art to nominate artists to design the hypothetical new coins. British sculptor Christopher Ironside won this competition, and his design was chosen to feature on the potential decimalised currency. His design for the 1p coin featured a Scottish theme, with a coin depicting a thistle atop a Scottish flag inside a shield and a Scottish lion inside a shield. However, Chancellor James Callaghan's announcement that that the UK would decimalise its currency included an open competition would be held to find the new designs. Over 80 artists 900 different designs were submitted. Ironside entered this competition with a further, different style of designs and won.
The reverse of the coin, which was minted from 1971 to 2008, featured a crowned portcullis with chains (an adaptation of the Badge of Henry VII which is now the Badge of the Palace of Westminster), with the numeral "1" written below the portcullis, and either NEW PENNY (1971–1981) or ONE PENNY (1982–2008) above the portcullis.
In August 2005 the Royal Mint launched a competition to find new reverse designs for all circulating coins apart from the £2 coin. The winner, announced in April 2008, was Matthew Dent, whose designs were gradually introduced into circulating British coinage from mid-2008. The designs for the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p coins depict sections of the Royal Shield that form the whole shield when placed together. The entire shield was featured on the now-obsolete round £1 coin. The 1p coin depicts the left section between the first and third quarter of the shield, representing England and Northern Ireland. The coin's obverse remains largely unchanged, but the beading (the ring of dots around the coin's circumference), which no longer features on the coin's reverse, has also been removed from the obverse.
The coins are produced by the Royal Mint, at their facility in Llantrisant, South Wales. The process involves using a die, to strike a blank, which imprints the design of the coin onto the a blank, (a blank disc made to the diameter of the coin).
The dies are cut through a computer aided engraving process, and the blank discs are formed from sheet metal punched by a machine known as a blanking press. The blank discs are then struck in a coining press at pressure of around 60 tonnes by the dies, which imprints the coins design. The Royal Mint can produce around 850 coins per machine, per minute.
The 1p (and 2p) coins are legal tender for amounts up to and including 20 pence. However, legal tender in the UK has a very narrow meaning, that is unlikely to affect everyday transactions. Legal tender means that a debtor can not be successfully be sued for non-payment of a debt if he has offered unconditionally to pay in legal tender. The defendant in such a case would be able to raise a defence of tender before claim.
A shopkeeper, for example, is not under any obligation to accept 1p coins for payment; conversely they have the discretion to accept payment in just 1p coins if they so wish.
Speculation on withdrawal
The proposed withdrawal of the 1p coins has been subject of media speculation for some time. It has been reported that in 2015, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, proposed the withdrawal of the 1p coin. This was allegedly vetoed by Prime Minister David Cameron, because of the political risk of such a move.
In March 2018, the Government launched a consultation on the future of payments in the British economy. One question focused on the denominational mix of coins, including 'dormant' denominations. This prompted speculation that the 1p and 2p coins could be withdrawn from circulation. A Bank of England report concluded that fears about the withdrawal were 'unfounded' and that there would be no significant impact on prices if copper coins were scrapped, noting the sharp decline in usage of copper coins. It is estimated that 60% of copper coins are only spent once, before being removed from circulation and the Royal Mint has to mint £500m of copper coins each year to replace coins fallen out of circulation.
The penny has the lowest value in real terms of any coin in the history of the United Kingdom, since at least 1707. All previous low-value coins were withdrawn before their purchasing power fell below that of the penny. The purchasing power of previous lowest-value coins is:
|Coin||Face value||Withdrawn||2018-equivalent purchasing power at withdrawal|
|half-farthing||1⁄1920 of a pound||1869/1870||4.9p|
|farthing||1⁄960 of a pound||1960||2.4p|
|pre-decimal halfpenny||1⁄480 of a pound||1969||3.4p|
|pre-decimal penny||1⁄240 of a pound||1971||5.8p|
|decimal halfpenny||1⁄200 of a pound||1984||1.6p|
- 1971 ~ 1,521,666,250
- 1972 ~ In proof sets only
- 1973 ~ 280,196,000
- 1974 ~ 330,892,000
- 1975 ~ 221,604,000
- 1976 ~ 300,160,000
- 1977 ~ 285,430,000
- 1978 ~ 292,770,000
- 1979 ~ 459,000,000
- 1980 ~ 416,304,000
- 1981 ~ 301,800,000
- 1982 ~ 100,292,000
- 1983 ~ 243,002,000
- 1984 ~ 154,759,625
- 1985 ~ 200,605,245
- 1986 ~ 369,989,130
- 1987 ~ 499,946,000
- 1988 ~ 793,492,000
- 1989 ~ 658,142,000
- 1990 ~ 529,047,500
- 1991 ~ 206,457,600
composition changed to copper-plated steel
- 1992 ~ 253,867,000
- 1993 ~ 602,590,000
- 1994 ~ 843,834,000
- 1995 ~ 303,314,000
- 1996 ~ 723,840,060
- 1997 ~ 396,874,000
- 1998 ~ 739,770,000
- 1999 ~ 891,392,000
- 2000 ~ 1,060,364,000
- 2001 ~ 928,802,000
- 2002 ~ 601,446,000
- 2003 ~ 539,436,000
- 2004 ~ 739,764,000
- 2005 ~ 378,752,000
- 2006 ~ 524,605,000
- 2007 ~ 548,002,000
- 2008 ~ 180,600,000 (Ironside reverse)
- 2008 ~ 507,952,000 (Dent reverse hereafter)
- 2009 ~ 556,412,800
- 2010 ~ 609,603,000
- 2011 ~ 210,404,000
- 2012 ~ 227,201,000
- 2013 ~ 260,800,000
- 2014 ~ 464,801,520
- 2015 ~ 154,600,000
- 2015 ~ 418,201,016
- 2016 ~ 371,002,000
- 2017 ~ 240,999,600
Data taken from the Royal Mint mintage statistics. The latest estimate from the Royal Mint of the total number of 1p coins in circulation was in March 2016 and there were an estimated 11.43 billion 1p coins in circulation, with a total face value of around £114,299,000.
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