Volume 49, Number 1, January 2012
A marked difference? EVER since the first decimal coins appeared, our hobby has lacked a certain something. Modern minting methods and quality control at the huge site in Llantrisant meant that the oddities and rarities that so many of us eagerly sought in our pre-decimal change became few and far between. Our currency became uniform, bland even and despite the Royal Mint’s attempts to introduce new designs, the excitement of finding a true rarity has almost disappeared. After all, even the most limited of the designs, be it on a 50p, £1 or £2 was being struck in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions and a little patience was enough to allow any collector of modern coinage to complete the set—or so we thought. There is no denying that the uniform, high quality coinage, all featuring one monarch, all featuring the correct obverse and reverse, meant that interest in coins amongst the “non-collector” began to wane; with no chance of finding anything different in his pocket the man in the street stopped checking his change and our hobby began to diminish somewhat, as there were fewer people checking their change for rarities so fewer people took their interest to the next level to become full blown numismatists. Those of us who did carry on found ourselves neglecting the post 1971 coins as we felt there was nothing worth looking out for. Then we found out about the 1983 2p and gradually things began to look up for modern coinage. The 1983 2p, for those who don’t know, is worth looking out for because there are a few out there worth far more than 2p. In 1982 the legend on the reverse of the “new coins” was changed from New Pence to whatever the denomination was: One Penny, Two Pence, Five Pence, etc. However, it seems that in 1983 some coins were minted for a promotional pack that used the pre-1982 reverse meaning that you had a 1983-dated coin with New Pence on it—today that rarity fetches £100s and it’s well worth checking your change for that one! Then back in 2009 the papers and internet were full of stories of the “dateless 20p”—another reverse/obverse error that was fetching £100s but has settled down to round about £50. We also hear of the “inverted” die 2008 penny—where the obverse and reverse are “upside down” in relation to each other. No-one knows how many of those might be around but some collectors are prepared to pay serious money for the ones that do surface—again well worth keeping an eye open for. The latest rarities come from the 50p family—the Kew Gardens 50p has a mintage so low (10,000) that they are bound to command a premium when they do finally surface and in the last month or so we hear of a variety within the Olympic 50p programme that has been fetching large sums on-line. The “underwater swimmer” variety of the Aquatics 50p (where the water obscures the swimmer’s face—see “News and Views” this month) was issued in very limited numbers in the first packs and keen collectors are eagerly snapping them up—modern coins are interesting once again. This being the case I wonder if there is something the Mint might be able to do to stimulate further interest in modern coins and from there our hobby in general? I know their remit isn’t actually to stimulate collecting and help our hobby, they are really just there to produce coin of the realm, but the numerous packs and precious metal coins they sell every year show that they have collectors’ interests at heart too—this being the case I wonder if they might ever produce “limited edition” coins for circulation? I can’t see them putting an error out there on purpose—their pride in their quality control wouldn’t allow that—but maybe a limited number of coins with a special mint mark? A 1,000 of each mintage with the Royal Mint’s own crest somewhere would certainly get people looking wouldn’t it? I’m not suggesting they sell them separately, that would defeat the object, but what if they put them into circulation just like any other coin? It would certainly create an interest. But then again is that what we collectors want? Would we be interested in such a mint-marked coin? A “gimmick” such as that? Or are we only really interested in genuine rarities, the errors? The low mintages that come about because of demand rather than those artificially created? I can see some jumping at the chance of getting their hands on a “special mint-marked” £1, but others might shun such a blatant piece of rarity engineering. I think I’d probably look out for them, if only to sell on (as many others would I am sure). What would you do . . . ?
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