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Disappearing Bronze Coinage?


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#1 anonguest

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:15 AM

Just a quick revisiting of the now familiar, to almost all here on these boards for sure, story of how older 1p and 2p coins of proper bronze (as opposed to post 1992 steel plated types) - the fact that they are worth more for their metal than the face value.

I recall this story hitting the news a year or so back. At the weekend a good, but sometimes geeky/nerdy friend, updated me on this situation in the following way and offered opinions;

1) In spite of metal prices having cooled off from their manic highs pre-bubble bursting, these coins are still worth about 50% more than face value.

2) Accumulating and melting them down, even paying a hefty cut to a crooked scrap metal dealer, would still represent a quick an easy profit - say 25% instant return on your money??

3) Melting them down is illegal TODAY, so they would have to be held as a longer term speculative 'investment' until such time as they could be either profitably be exported or melted here legally. The only loss would be the interim loss of equivalent interest - which (as the £50 note story today illustrates) given ultra low interest rates would be bearable?

and, most interestingly,

4) Being the person he is, always to check facts for himself (as well as having too much spare time on his hands!), he tells me that regular random bulk tests show that the average proportion of bronze vs steel coins is dwindling - more than would be expected due to gradually increasing annual mintage of new steel coins each year.

This leaves me with 2 questions:

Is the Mint secretly undertaking a gradual withdrawal program of bronze coins OR are suffient number of the public siphoning them off themsleves?! With a longer term view in mind.

If the latter, when would teh 1p and 2p coins be realsitically be demonetised? He surmised that, in spite of almost certain initial political/public emotional reluctance to reliquish these coins for purely symbolic reasons (i.e would be powerful symbol of decline in value of the pound, etc etc) - they would be demonetised when they serve no practical purpose due to general price rises of everything and it being impossible to find anything priced in 1/100th pound units, e.g £2.93p.

An example of this would be the removal of the 1/2p coin with little fuss. Also, he pointed out that there are several countries where the smallest monetary unit is only 1/20th of the currency unit (i.e equivalant to 5p) and that the smallest price increments seen in shops would cater for that.

Given that most (all?) retailers have now disconinued the old £1.99p type retailing behaviour, and rounded up to £2, he surmised that teh general cost of living need only rise another 2 fold from today before it started to become a realistic argument to dispense with the 1p coin at least.

Thus, hanging on to those old bronze coins need not be for so long?

Finally, and best of all, he points out that EVEN IF prices of metal collapsed - one still has the face value of the coins, and so one would always get back at least your initial 'investment'!

Thoughts anyone? time for me to buy a wheel barrow and large collection of magnets to filter the coins out? There arent any laws on eccentrically hoarding coinage are there? I mean, I might want to create some weird and large Tracy Emin style modern artwork when I retire. ;)

Edited by anonguest, 07 December 2009 - 11:37 AM.


#2 anonguest

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:19 AM

Just a revisit and musing on the now familiar, to almost all here on these boards for sure, story of how older 1p and 2p coins of proper bronze (as opposed to post 1992 steel plated types) - the fact that they are worth more for their metal than the face value.

I recall this story hitting the news a year or so back. At the weekend a good, but sometimes geeky/nerdy friend, updated me on this situation in the following way and offered opinions;

1) In spite of metal prices having cooled off from their manic pre-bubble bursting highs, these coins are still worth about 50% more than face value.

2) Accumulating and melting them down, even paying a hefty cut to a crooked scrap metal dealer, would still represent a quick an easy profit - say 25% instant return on your money??

3) Melting them down is illegal TODAY, so they would have to be held as a longer term speculative 'investment' until such time as they could be either profitably be exported or melted here legally. The only loss would be the interim loss of equivalent interest - which (as the £50 note story today illustrates) given ultra low interest rates would be bearable?

and, most interestingly,

4) Being the person he is, always to check facts for himself (as well as having too much spare time on his hands!), he tells me that regular random bulk tests show that the average proportion of bronze vs steel coins has been dwindling - more than would be expected due to gradually increasing annual mintage of new steel coins each year.

This leaves me with 2 questions:

Is the Mint secretly undertaking a gradual withdrawal program of bronze coins OR are sufficient numbers of the public siphoning them off themsleves?! With a longer term view in mind.

If the latter, when would the 1p and 2p coins be realistically be demonetised within a reasonable timeframe to make the excercise worthwhile? He surmised that, in spite of almost certain initial political/public emotional reluctance to reliquish these coins for purely symbolic reasons (i.e would be powerful symbol of decline in value of the pound, etc etc) - they would be demonetised when they serve no practical purpose due to general price rises of everything and it being impossible to find anything priced in 1/100th pound units, e.g £2.93p.

An example of this would be the removal of the 1/2p coin with little fuss. Also, he pointed out that there are several countries where the smallest monetary unit is only 1/20th of the currency unit (i.e equivalant to 5p) and that the smallest price increments seen in shops would cater for that.

Given that most (all?) retailers have now disconinued the old £1.99p type retailing behaviour, and rounded up to £2, he surmised that teh general cost of living need only rise another 2 fold from today before it started to become a realistic argument to dispense with the 1p coin at least.

Thus, hanging on to those old bronze coins need not be for so long?

Finally, and best of all, he points out that EVEN IF prices of metal collapsed - one still has the face value of the coins, and so one would always get back at least your initial 'investment'!

Thoughts anyone? time for me to buy a wheel barrow and large collactio of magnets to filter the coins out? There arent any laws on eccentrically hoarding coinage are there? I mean, I might want to create some weird large Tracy Emin style modern artwork when I retire. ;)

#3 p.p.

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:25 AM

US perspective: http://www.coinflation.com/
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#4 thod

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:31 AM

3) Melting them down is illegal TODAY, so they would have to be held as a longer term speculative 'investment' until such time as they could be either profitably be exported or melted here legally. The only loss would be the interim loss of equivalent interest - which (as the £50 note story today illustrates) given ultra low interest rates would be bearable?


Why not simply moor a ship 12 miles offshore, like the old radio stations, to leave UK jurisdiction. Then you could melt down all the coins you wish on board.

#5 anonguest

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:34 AM

Why not simply moor a ship 12 miles offshore, like the old radio stations, to leave UK jurisdiction. Then you could melt down all the coins you wish on board.



Nahh. HMRC would probably raid the ship as they did with those stations. Government can be petty and vindictive. I'd want to be a lot further away than 12 miles.

Edited by anonguest, 07 December 2009 - 11:38 AM.


#6 johnny5thumbs

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:09 PM

3) Melting them down is illegal TODAY, so they would have to be held as a longer term speculative 'investment' until such time as they could be either profitably be exported or melted here legally. The only loss would be the interim loss of equivalent interest - which (as the £50 note story today illustrates) given ultra low interest rates would be bearable?


In times past, when previous coinage reached a similar situation (pre-1947 silver, I seem to remember), there were small bespoke foundries operating in Belgium and Holland that would happily accept your coins at scrap metal values, and then melt them down quite legally. Dunno if EC laws prevent that nowadays ...

#7 ken_ichikawa

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:15 PM

Why not simply moor a ship 12 miles offshore, like the old radio stations, to leave UK jurisdiction. Then you could melt down all the coins you wish on board.



Only if you have registration in another country, the ferry I crossed the black sea on was Burmese

#8 benthebuilder

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:26 PM

Just a revisit and musing on the now familiar, to almost all here on these boards for sure, story of how older 1p and 2p coins of proper bronze (as opposed to post 1992 steel plated types) - the fact that they are worth more for their metal than the face value.

I recall this story hitting the news a year or so back. At the weekend a good, but sometimes geeky/nerdy friend, updated me on this situation in the following way and offered opinions;

1) In spite of metal prices having cooled off from their manic pre-bubble bursting highs, these coins are still worth about 50% more than face value.

2) Accumulating and melting them down, even paying a hefty cut to a crooked scrap metal dealer, would still represent a quick an easy profit - say 25% instant return on your money??

3) Melting them down is illegal TODAY, so they would have to be held as a longer term speculative 'investment' until such time as they could be either profitably be exported or melted here legally. The only loss would be the interim loss of equivalent interest - which (as the £50 note story today illustrates) given ultra low interest rates would be bearable?

and, most interestingly,

4) Being the person he is, always to check facts for himself (as well as having too much spare time on his hands!), he tells me that regular random bulk tests show that the average proportion of bronze vs steel coins has been dwindling - more than would be expected due to gradually increasing annual mintage of new steel coins each year.

This leaves me with 2 questions:

Is the Mint secretly undertaking a gradual withdrawal program of bronze coins OR are sufficient numbers of the public siphoning them off themsleves?! With a longer term view in mind.

If the latter, when would the 1p and 2p coins be realistically be demonetised within a reasonable timeframe to make the excercise worthwhile? He surmised that, in spite of almost certain initial political/public emotional reluctance to reliquish these coins for purely symbolic reasons (i.e would be powerful symbol of decline in value of the pound, etc etc) - they would be demonetised when they serve no practical purpose due to general price rises of everything and it being impossible to find anything priced in 1/100th pound units, e.g £2.93p.

An example of this would be the removal of the 1/2p coin with little fuss. Also, he pointed out that there are several countries where the smallest monetary unit is only 1/20th of the currency unit (i.e equivalant to 5p) and that the smallest price increments seen in shops would cater for that.

Given that most (all?) retailers have now disconinued the old £1.99p type retailing behaviour, and rounded up to £2, he surmised that teh general cost of living need only rise another 2 fold from today before it started to become a realistic argument to dispense with the 1p coin at least.

Thus, hanging on to those old bronze coins need not be for so long?

Finally, and best of all, he points out that EVEN IF prices of metal collapsed - one still has the face value of the coins, and so one would always get back at least your initial 'investment'!

Thoughts anyone? time for me to buy a wheel barrow and large collactio of magnets to filter the coins out? There arent any laws on eccentrically hoarding coinage are there? I mean, I might want to create some weird large Tracy Emin style modern artwork when I retire. ;)


Am I missing the point here, or does all this seem like an awful lot of mental energy expended over what cannot really amount to very much profit unless you are dealing in TONS of the stuff?

I suspect the proportion of the population who actually have the time to care what their coins are made of is incredibly, incredibly small.

OK, maybe its an entertaining fact that some 1p's and 2p's are worth more as scrap than their face value but to talk of wheelbarrows and magnets??? No need.

#9 Bean counter

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:52 PM

Am I missing the point here, or does all this seem like an awful lot of mental energy expended over what cannot really amount to very much profit unless you are dealing in TONS of the stuff?

I suspect the proportion of the population who actually have the time to care what their coins are made of is incredibly, incredibly small.

OK, maybe its an entertaining fact that some 1p's and 2p's are worth more as scrap than their face value but to talk of wheelbarrows and magnets??? No need.


I must admit I do pop the copper ones into a separate pot next to my main change pot when I spot them. I certainly don't check the dates on all my copper coins but it's pretty easy to spot the copper ones without checking the date. I don't do this as any sort of 'investment'; more for nostalgia aspect when even copper coins had some intrinsic value! Just like I tend to pop the special edition 50 pence pieces into the separate pot just because I like the designs. Maybe I'm not the only sad person doing this so perhaps that's why they are disappearing!
As to continued use of one and two pence pieces as currency... Australia did this some time ago so why not UK. At approx AUD 1.8 to GBP it's not so very different. Items are still price as $1.97 etc it's just that change is given rounded up to the nearest 5 cents.

#10 Austin Allegro

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 01:10 PM

If coppers are disappearing, it's probably just because they've fallen down the back of millions of sofas which have then been dumped in a layby to make room for the next lot of DFS tat bought on MEW.
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#11 anonguest

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 01:58 PM

Am I missing the point here, or does all this seem like an awful lot of mental energy expended over what cannot really amount to very much profit unless you are dealing in TONS of the stuff?

I suspect the proportion of the population who actually have the time to care what their coins are made of is incredibly, incredibly small.

OK, maybe its an entertaining fact that some 1p's and 2p's are worth more as scrap than their face value but to talk of wheelbarrows and magnets??? No need.



It was actually a semi-serious proposition he put forward which, thinking afterwards, did seem appealing with few downsides. Yes, you would be dealing in tonnes (which incidentally would not take up too much space). I think the general idea was that, under some pretence or false reason (i.e temporary work of modern art or such like), start ordering from high street banks large (but not suspiciously too large) quantities of 'copper' coins - which would be delivered by weight in cloth sacks not little plastic bags.

Set up a simple but effective 'production line' facility in your back garden shed (wheelbarrow, rented electromagnet kit, etc) - and 'filter' out the steel stuff relatively quickly and effeectively. Bag up the bronze and return the unwanted steel coinage. Then sit on your bronze until such time as one can legally melt it down!

My understanding is that 1 tonne of bronze coins has a face value of about £2800 or thereabouts?? So, even if you broke the law tomorrow and melted it, youd make an instant 25%+ return on your money - not bad in a 0.5% interest world?!

As a final point, which I havent verified for myself, I was told that pre-decimal pennies are now worth 9x their face value (i.e 9p). In other words if you had £1000 of pennies in 1971 you'd have £9000 now?? Roughly the multiple average house prices have risen since then?

#12 juvenal

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 02:34 PM

I was told that pre-decimal pennies are now worth 9x their face value (i.e 9p). In other words if you had £1000 of pennies in 1971 you'd have £9000 now?? Roughly the multiple average house prices have risen since then?


Can anyone verify or link this?
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#13 benthebuilder

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 03:15 PM

It was actually a semi-serious proposition he put forward which, thinking afterwards, did seem appealing with few downsides. Yes, you would be dealing in tonnes (which incidentally would not take up too much space). I think the general idea was that, under some pretence or false reason (i.e temporary work of modern art or such like), start ordering from high street banks large (but not suspiciously too large) quantities of 'copper' coins - which would be delivered by weight in cloth sacks not little plastic bags.

Set up a simple but effective 'production line' facility in your back garden shed (wheelbarrow, rented electromagnet kit, etc) - and 'filter' out the steel stuff relatively quickly and effeectively. Bag up the bronze and return the unwanted steel coinage. Then sit on your bronze until such time as one can legally melt it down!

My understanding is that 1 tonne of bronze coins has a face value of about £2800 or thereabouts?? So, even if you broke the law tomorrow and melted it, youd make an instant 25%+ return on your money - not bad in a 0.5% interest world?!

As a final point, which I havent verified for myself, I was told that pre-decimal pennies are now worth 9x their face value (i.e 9p). In other words if you had £1000 of pennies in 1971 you'd have £9000 now?? Roughly the multiple average house prices have risen since then?


Any profit would be less bank commissions for obtaining change, hire of electromagnetic kit?, smelting charges and fuel costs. These are the actual costs....the costs of having your family, friends and neighbours thinking you have become a stranger to reason are incalculable.

Not to mention, who the hell wants to spend their days lugging about tons of pennies to and from the bank/shed/scrap metal merchants.

And if you'd had a £1000 of pennies in 1971 you should have taken them to the bank and bought some Berkshire Hathaway stock. How much would that be worth now??

#14 anonguest

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 04:07 PM

the costs of having your family, friends and neighbours thinking you have become a stranger to reason are incalculable.


I'm not sure they would notice any difference from what I'm like now! :D

#15 anonguest

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 04:18 PM

Can anyone verify or link this?



This is getting infectious!

I checked the specs for old penny coins;

http://www.24carat.c...cimalcoins.html

I calculate therefore 105820 old penny coins per tonne.

BUT there were 240 pence in an old pound? Therefore this number of coins equates to approximately £440 per tonne.

Today a tonne of bronze (mostly copper) costs? £4250 per tonne approx.

Therefore value gain since 1971 is.... 4250 divide by 440 = roughly 9 times gain (actually nearer to 10x gain I think!)

Hmmm..... seems that (over the very long term) one doesnt need just gold/silver to preserve purchasing power?! Question is....IF one plays the same gamble this time round (anticipating future demonetisation of 1p and 2p coins) and sits on a pile of them for 20+ years, could you reasonably expect a similar sort of purchasing power protection of your initial cash 'investment'???

I know this board is inhabited by much smarter people than me - let me know if there's any flaws in the maths?

Edited by anonguest, 07 December 2009 - 04:19 PM.





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