Pennies and cents clog up wallets and pockets. Cold, hard mathematics proves it’s time to ditch the shrapnel in favour of a new denomination
18 December 2019
FIND a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have… an annoying and practically worthless disc of copper-electroplated steel rattling around in your pocket. Far from stooping to pick them up, most of us are actively trying to get rid of the luckless things. According to the UK Treasury, 60 per cent of one and two pence coins are used once then lost, stashed or thrown away. Last year, for the first time in decades, the UK’s Royal Mint didn’t make any copper coins. There were already more than enough in circulation.
So why doesn’t the UK follow the lead of Canada, Ireland and many other countries and put these coins out of their misery?
Change, it turns out, is hard. Over the years, the UK’s Bank of England, Treasury, Royal Mint and even a prime minister have thrown in their tuppenny-ha’penny worth to defend copper coins. One argument is that getting rid of them will cause inflation; another is that it will prevent shops from selling goods at that magical £X.99 price point.
Now, though, there is a new reason to want to see the back of coppers: it would, ironically, help save cash from being abandoned altogether.
Finding a penny was once a genuine slice of luck. A century ago, a British penny (then 1/240th of a pound) was worth the equivalent of 20 new pence. But today, there is literally nothing you can buy with one in the shops. The cheapest item on sale at the UK’s leading supermarket is a sweet …
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