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Is Britain’s Penny Due to be Pulled from Circulation?

Author: Lawrence Chard - Director and Expert Numismatist

Published: 29 Jun 2016

Last Updated: 11 Feb 2021

Is the end in sight for Britain's penny? Do you think the UK is ready to lose its smallest coin? Pennies from heaven or a dratted nuisance? 

Could Britain's Penny be Pulled from Circulation?

The news has been awash this week with the possibility, and some say probability, of Britain’s penny - and two pence coin - being withdrawn from circulation.

For a number of years, the subject “Is this the end of the British Penny?” has raised it’s head. However, each time the question has been broached, it has faded back into media obscurity again. The British penny is much loved, and hated, by some. This humble coin has been with us since it was first introduced into Britain by King Offa (A.D. 757 – 796) and throughout the ages has been struck in a variety of metals; gold and silver, copper, bronze, cupro-nickel and more recently copper plated steel. The mintage figures for 2014 reveal that 11,278,000,000 pennies were struck; love them or hate them, these fiddly coins are in demand.

Ireland, the Latest Country to Stop Using the Small Change

This week, Ireland was the latest country to announce it would no longer issue 1 or 2 cent coins for circulation. These coins will still be legal tender in Ireland but retailers will round their prices up or down. Ireland follows in the footsteps of other countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and Australia which was the first country to drop their lowest denomination coin in 1994.

How Does it Work?

Countries which have withdrawn their smallest coins from circulation have used the system where retailers can still show prices for their goods using figures such as 99 cents or 1.99 and accept payment in full electronically. However, if the customer is paying in cash, their change will be rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cents. Retailers are fond of using the psychological pricing technique of trying to fool the customer into thinking that they are getting a bargain by not rounding the figure to the whole. With the majority of payments being made electronically and the growing number of “pound” stores, the penny is becoming obsolete. If the penny is withdrawn, it will probably be because of its lack of usefulness.

Which Side Of The Coin Are You?

The last circulation coin to be withdrawn was the halfpenny in 1984, it wasn’t missed when it was withdrawn. How would the British public react if the Treasury announced that Britain’s penny, and probably twopence, were to be removed from circulation?

Penny For Your Thoughts!

Many of us have been brought up with the saying “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” so perhaps if we don’t have the pennies… there maybe fewer savers. Just a thought….

I know I would be all for the phasing out of the penny and two pence amongst British coinage. Or would you be like Lizzie, who reminds me that coins are the one commodity that we don’t throw away and who loves the little penny? What do you do with your pennies? Do they end up in a change jar or do you pop them into the charity collection tin? Anyway, who wants unwanted change at the bottom of their purse….unless it was a 1933 penny!

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