Tag Archives: pennies

Day 17

More of the same. Parcels. Customers. Miserable weather. The only difference was that the car got covered in a fine spray of dirt thrown up by cars passing by the shop on the main road, and a bird, which appears to have dined on something quick-setting and durable, deposited the digested remains in the middle of my windscreen.

I spent 27 minutes on the phone at one point, being cross-questioned by a customer with “jut one last question” being promised more than once. In the end he said “Well, why do people collect if you can’t make money from it?” My reply was that collecting is about the pursuit, the assembling of a collection which is greater than the sum of the parts and, with luck, the knowledge you gain.

If you want to make money you take a second job, put the wages in the bank, buy shares or buy precious metals.

He said: “Oh!”

It’s a good thing the boss wasn’t in. That’s half an hour of my wages down the drain just so that my pearls of wisdom can bounce off someone who thinks numismatics is the way to get rich.

Before that we had someone in who kept asking for dates of coin which don’t exist. He couldn’t get his head round the idea that there were no pennies minted in  1941, 42 or 43 as there were thought to be too many in circulation. In 1949 most of them were held back, and they were still being issued as new coins until 1956. In 1950 and 1951 very small quantities were struck and were stored until 1956 when they were sent to Bermuda (all the 1950 mintage and most of the 1951 too).  They say that British dealers started travelling to the island and offering £1 for 1951 pennies – 240 times its face value (there were still 240 pennies to the £ in those days).

There is one coin known from 1952. I don’t know why, some arcane Mint purpose. In 1953 they struck pennies for commemorative sets. Only one is known from 1954, used for die testing. Somehow it escaped melting and ended up in circulation. Then there were no more until 1961. They were struck every year until 1967 and all the pennies struck in 1968 and 1969 were dated 1967. Again, I haven’t a clue why. After that they minted them in 1970 for the final £sd sets and, after a thousand years, the old penny made way for the decimal issue.

It’s amazing how many we have being brought in , and even more amazing how many collectors haven’t bothered to learn that there are years when certain denominations weren’t stuck. The saying “Before you buy the coin, buy the book.” does not seem to have reached everybody.

The pennies in the picture are Australian pre-decimal pennies – but they are the same size and shape, just that they have a kangaroo instead of Britannia.

Friday Part 2

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.

1921 Pennies Look how worn they are – these are a selected lot in about Fine condition. THey are good enough as an example but a collector would prefer something a bit better. 


A Slow Day

It’s harder than you think, working without the internet. We knew we wouldn’t be working on eBay, taking card payments or using the phone. We hadn’t realised just how many times a day we needed it to look things up, research prices or simply to settle arguments.

Instead of sitting in front of a screen enjoying myself I had to sort pennies, looking for 1895s to make up the sets. They had the lowest mintage of the Old Head pennies by a long way and are always a pain to find.

I also cleared my desk, sorted my stationery supplies and ranked my pencils in order of length. In other words, apart from seven parcels in the morning, and a few customers, we were rather underworked.

Fortunately the engineers are coming out on Monday to fix it. Fingers crossed!

Now I’m going to relax and slide gently into Christmas…