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The penny’s days, it seems, are numbered. The coin’s origins go back to Roman times but the Bank of England has intimated that it wants to scrap the penny because more than half are only used once.
The bank’s other argument is that if it were scrapped and retailers rounded up prices to the nearest 5p, it would create hardly any inflation — just 0.07 per cent.
Honour - Coin - Part - Life - Culture
In honour of this coin which has become part of our everyday life and British culture — with phrases such ‘a penny for your thoughts’ and ‘spend a penny’ — HARRY MOUNT tells its story . . .
Pennies last, on average, for more than 40 years, according to the Royal Mint, which monitors how many are damaged or lost.
Pre-decimalisation - Pennies - Circulation - 1860s - Victoria
Some, though, keep going for longer. Pre-decimalisation (until 1971), pennies were still in circulation that dated back to the 1860s in Victoria’s reign.
In a tradition that ended years ago, babies born on the same day as a future monarch were given a silver penny struck with the year of their birth. This was seen as a way of wishing them health — and wealth — for their whole life.
Coinage - Act - Coin - Tender - Amounts
Under the Coinage Act 1971, the 1p coin is legal tender for amounts only up to 20p. So shopkeepers don’t have to accept the sale if you offer 21 pennies or more. An Essex mother, Laura Pulley, fell foul of this law when she wasn’t allowed on a bus because she tried to pay the 60p fare in 1p and 2p coins. (The 20p limit applies to 2p pieces, too). Three years earlier, in 2012, an accountant sued a difficult client who tried to pay an £804 debt in coppers — and won.
According to the Royal Mint, there are 11.278 billion pennies in circulation and 6.557 billion 2ps.
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