As (some of) you know, I am a bit of a closet numismatist. What, in proper numismatic parlance is called a “change checker” – I won’t run out and buy coins, but I like to have a look at what’s in my pocket and odd coins – mis-strikes, rare designs, fakes – really interest me. And thus, obviously, in the UK at least, the love of my life is the round pound coin. (My favourite coin out of all the world’s currencies of all time is… debatable. Possibly the old 5 yen piece, with the calligraphic lettering and the gear, grain and ocean design).
And the round pound is about to no longer be with us, pulled from circulation on my birthday.
[Image: Pound coins in a tray laid out in vertical columns. Left to right; The four union badges, the four floral designs, the four city crests, missing Cardiff and Edinburgh, the four bridges, the four animal symbols, the four crowns]
I’ve not managed to collect every year, but I’m only missing three; The city badges of Edinburgh and Cardiff, and the 2016 unique crest, which was only ever available in collectors’ sets anyway. The only other design which was only minted in one year is the crowned royal shield, which I have (top left in the picture) and which I found in my piggy bank when I was about five, and have hung onto ever since, through twenty-odd house moves. That was the coin that got me really interested in the physical properties of coins, and into the idea of collecting them as objects. I remember the animals series being new (And why oh why couldn’t they have been properly consistent, and had a single lion for England, a unicorn for Scotland, the dragon as-is for Wales and the stag for Northern Ireland?) and being tremendously excited about them because they were so different from the crowns, which were the only other ones in circulation at the time.
The bridges series to me are pretty much mentally synonymous with going to university, since they were first released whilst I was there, and their choice for England was the Millenium Bridge, over the Tyne (And I am nothing if not proud of the North, I know people who worked in Wallsend to assemble the pieces, the parts were made in Manchester, and Europe’s largest floating crane was piloted by a Geordie to lower it into place, with a tolerance of less than three inches to make it line up properly. Crucially, locally, the bridge represents Newcastle and Gateshead being joined, in an era when it looked likely that Newcastle would proverbially move to London and leave Gateshead to flounder).
The cities are the odd ducks – I rarely see them (or saw them) in circulation, since they were released whilst I lived abroad and they seem to have been snapped up by collectors far too quickly.
The flowers are probably the most ridiculously beautiful coins in circulation today. Naturalistic, clean lines, lots of open space and beauty, it’s a shame that they won’t get a very long life as coins (And it feels a massive shame that the mint just plans to melt down the ones it takes back).
But anyway, pound coins. And then there’s the non-legal-tender pounds; The ones from the various overseas bits and dependencies and places that few British schoolchildren can be certain are definitely “British” or “Not British”.
A much less good photo because my hands are shaky;
[Image; Pound coins, slightly blurry. Top-bottom left-right; Isle of Man triskelion, Guernsey ship and crest (as in, it’s got two tails, no head), Isle of Man St John’s Chapel, Isle of Man mobile phone, Falkland Islands crest, Jersey “The Resolute”, Gibraltar Neanderthal skull.]
For possibly obvious reasons, I don’t expect that I’ll be able to get a pound coin from every territory that uses pound coins, and certainly not one of every tails design. As much as I would like to. I love the Neanderthal skull one, and the mobile phone – Both of them basically saying “Hey, you know what we do here? SCIENCE.” And the Guernsey with two tails is incredibly useful for winning coin tosses with.
I also have a slack handful of interesting fakes which I’ve drilled holes through both to see what they’re made of and to wear them as watch fobs. Some of them have lead cores. I’ve not yet found one of the vaunted plastic ones, but I have got a rather beautiful and crisply minted London badge which is completely black with tarnish after only a couple of years of circulation, and a couple with amazing hand-lettered edge inscriptions.
But, basically, this is just me doing what I do best; Obsessively cataloguing a thing that I like.
I might come back and bore you all to death with Japanese coins at some point too.
Anyway, short version – If you find a Cardiff or an Edinburgh in your change, or even a really interesting fake, give me a shout…