The day moves on. A man rings with four George IV pennies. That’s better than the usual junk people ring us with. He reigned 1820-1830 and there are only three dates. The 1827 is quite desirable. (That’s dealer talk for expensive).
He rather spoils the effect when he adds.
“They’re all dated 1919.”
Yes, I have yet another typical example of the British education system on the phone.
“That’s George V,” I say. “They are quite common. If they are in the normal condition they turn up in, it wouldn’t be worth your while bringing them down.
“No,” he says, “1919 is rare, I’ve seen them on the internet.”
“What does it say on the internet?” I ask, though I can guess.
“They’re worth between £60 and £900…” I know what’s coming next, “because they have mint marks on them.”
He’s right, they do. In 1918 and 1919 we needed extra minting capacity for pennies so the Heaton Mint and the King’s Norton Metal Company were given a contract to mint over 5,000,000 pennies. The Royal Mint did over 110,000,000 that year, so the pennies with the H and KN mintmarks are quite scarce, but not exactly rare. As a boy, in the days before decimalisation, I used to look for H and KN pennies in my change, and always managed to find a few before a new craze took over.
The truth is that if they are in good condition, and I mean the condition referred to as VF (Very Fine) or better, they are worth £30 fo the H and £90 for the KN.
The definition of VF, despite some of the coins you see claimed as VF is “A coin where all the fine detail is present, but not the ‘minute’ detail and signs of wear and tear to its higher points make it obvious that it has been in circulation but only minimally.”
That’s the point – wear from minimal circulation. Most of the pennies we see were taken out of change and kept in 1971 when we went decimal. They had been circulating for over 50 years. They are almost flat but people say they are in good condition because “you can read all the lettering”. Well, if you mistake Georgius IV for Georgius V, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the lettering is not all it could be. As you descend from VF you come to Fine, then to Very Good (which is dealer-speak for awful). And then you come to the area which most pre-decimal copper falls into – in the trade it’s called “clear date” which means, as you might guess, that you can read the date and mostly everything else is well worn.
He wouldn’t listen, so I passed him over to The Owner. He’s allowed to be rude to customers. He told the bloke that he shouldn’t believe everything he sees on the internet and that we can supply him with mint marked 1918 and 1919 pennies for 25 pence each if he orders them by the hundred.
I don’t blame the man with the pennies, I blame the internet. There is a lot of misinformation out there. And I blame the education system which is afraid to teach people how to thinkl.
Eventually, the day draws to a close and I queue in traffic to get home. Lockdown really has finished and the nation is back at work.