Celebrating four generations of Royalty
Volume 55, Number 3, March 2018
Out with the old—but quickly THE big news this month is, of course, the scrapping of the old “paper” £10 note. The note, featuring Charles Darwin, was introduced in November 2000 and is being replaced by the new Polymer Jane Austen note introduced just last September and those of you who care about such things will notice something interesting about the time frame of notes from cessation of issue to withdrawal. Before the Darwin note came the Dickens £10, the last one of these was issued in October 2000 and ceased to be legal tender (a narrow term defining what can be used to pay a fine in court—don’t get too hung up on it!) nearly three years later at the end of July 2003. Before Dickens came Florence Nightingale with her £10 note last issued in 1992—it wasn’t withdrawn until two years later in 1994. In the case of the Darwin/Austen changeover we have barely had six months since issue of the old note was stopped and it being withdrawn completely! The same thing happened with the transition from Elizabeth Fry £5 note to Churchill polymer— there seemed to be hardly any time at all before the former disappeared from our wallets and purses entirely and the speed with which the old £1 coin was replaced by the new was almost unseemly, again a mere six months! Quite why the changeover period from one note/coin to another has been so drastically reduced in recent times isn’t fully explained by either the Bank of England or the Royal Mint. One can only assume that both organisations feel that in this day and age, with information technology being as it is, it takes far less time for the “message” to get out there. With social media, 24 hour news and websites galore it is assumed that we should all know what’s going on at all times and thus the public no longer need the kind of notice that they perhaps did before. After all we even have the internet down here in Devon now, it really is amazing—we’ll have inside toilets next… Of course, not everybody does get the message in time and I am sure that after March 1 there will still be people trying to spend the old notes, the good thing here being that even if shops won’t take them most high street banks still will (some will require you to pay them in to your account, others will simply swap them for a crisp and shiny new polymer note instead) and if that fails you can still send them back to the Bank of England—remember the “Promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of….” that appears on our notes does not have a time limit on it. The Bank of England will redeem any of their notes at any time, although in many cases you would be crazy to send in, say, an old white fiver to redeem it for a polymer one as the chances are the white one will be worth far more than face value. Sadly coins don’t come with such a promise and, as a rule, once a coin is taken out of circulation that’s that, you can’t spend it and banks won’t change it for a more up to date one. That said I was pleasantly surprised to find that my local branch of NatWest has a new “spinning” coin sorter in which you can dump all your old, or new, coins and receive a voucher in exchange. This can then be traded for folding money or paid in to your account, no more need to “bag up” all the coins in their various denominations and have them weighed and, according to the member of staff I spoke to, the machine will take the old size 50p, 10 and 5p too. I have yet to test it with old florins or shillings but I did try with a 1986 Commonwealth Games £2—unfortunately the machine didn’t like it one bit! I’m often asked what to do with old coins that one isn’t able to change up, have no real numismatic interest for the collector and have no metal value—my answer is always the same, give them away, give them to your sons or daughters, your nephews, nieces or grandchildren; if you aren’t blessed with any of those then give them to the local school—you would be amazed at what children can learn from old coins. From history through to simple maths (teachers of my acquaintance teach children to count using coins) on to the good old fashioned idea of “play” money, old coins you might not rate do still have a purpose and they really are the most useful things, even after the Treasury decrees they aren’t.