More record breakers
Volume 45, Number 8, August 2008
MAKING IT HAPPEN As I am sure you’re aware (at least I hope you are after all the coverage in COIN NEWS) Britain has a new set of reverse designs on its coinage. The “jigsaw puzzle” of the Royal Shield spread across the six lower denomination coins was launched in April and up and down the country the general public (well some of us) are eagerly looking out to see when these new coins will come into circulation. Some have, it appears, been spotted in Slough (see “Readers’ Letters”) and we look forward to hearing from other eagle-eyed readers with regard to when they appear in your change elsewhere. In the meantime, however, some confusion has come about with the release of coins dated 2008 but bearing the old reverses (we’ve seen 5p pieces and pennies so far). This has led to a flurry of emails, letters and phone calls to the COIN NEWS office asking whether this was either a mistake on the part of the Royal Mint or perhaps sets were being broken up. The answer is actually neither—we always knew there was the possibility of the old reverses being put into circulation as the new ones weren’t launched until April 2 and as such any coins needed by the banks before that date had to bear the old symbols. There was no way the Mint could provide the banks with the new coins before that date in case some of them “got out”, thus ruining the launch itself, so they had to issue the old reverses. Unfortunately the system being what it is, these coins are only just turning up in our change now—hence the confusion on the part of some who expected only the new reverses to appear post-April. Now of course the reason for the appearance of the “old” coins is perfectly reasonable and straightforward—yes, it’s a shame that any had to be circulated. It would have been far more interesting from the collector’s point of view to have the old reverses only ever available within the Royal Mint’s sets—that way finding one in our change would have been so much more rewarding—but let’s face it, much as we would like them to be, the Royal Mint isn’t just beholden to collectors but has to pay attention to what the banking system requires! That said, we can’t help but feel that the necessity to release both the old and new coins this year is bound to lead to some confusion and will also detract from the impact the new coins may have. After all, there was this big launch back in the Spring and then . . . nothing . . . the only coins most of us are seeing are the old ones and there’s not much hope of pocketing a piece of the jigsaw until the Autumn, all momentum by that time being lost. This isn’t a new phenomenon of course. Every time the Mint launches a new coin design, the speed (or lack of it) of the banking system means that it’s usually months before anyone actually sees the thing in the flesh and by that time many people have forgotten about it and get slightly confused when they find one in their change! This inevitably leads to many people not actually knowing exactly what our coinage should look like from year to year and enables some “collectables” companies to produce coins never intended for circulation in the UK but which are bought by the unsuspecting public thinking they’re getting a British legal tender coin. What also happens is that perfectly legitimate coins get rejected at supermarket checkouts and the like by workers who simply have never seen an example before and reject it on the grounds that it might be “foreign”. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve explained to a shopkeeper that the “Bridge” pound coin isn’t from Gibraltar or that the Roger Bannister four minute mile 50p isn’t from Guernsey! The question is what to do about it—it’s obviously not the Royal Mint’s fault that the banking system takes so long to get the coins into our change and yet nor can they wait until the coins are about to enter circulation before they announce new designs—after all, the year sets (and hence any new designs) have to be available well in advance of the circulating coins. Is there any way, I wonder, to ensure that we have a coin launch one week and then start finding the same coins in or pockets the next? Sadly I doubt it, at least not without overloading the system and having far too much cash sloshing about, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could—all that press coverage and then the coins in your change to see “in the flesh” almost immediately. Think of the momentum generated,think of the impact on our hobby! It’s unlikely of course, if not impossible. But I can dream can’t I!?
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