Britain's 5p and 10p coins are to be substantially changed next year, causing potential chaos for the millions of people using vending machines and parking meters.Here's a better idea: stop producing coins smaller than 20p.
The change, proposed by the former Labour government, is designed to save the Royal Mint between £7 million and £8 million a year, allowing it to use steel rather than copper, which has surged in price over recent years. Making the cupronickel alloy is also a relatively expensive process.
On 15 February 1971, the 5p coin replaced the shilling, and the 10p coin replaced the florin. They were worth the equivalent, in today's money, of 55p and £1.10 respectively. A 1971 penny was worth slightly more than today's 10p.
At the time, the smallest coin was the decimal half penny. Worth just over 5p in today's money, it remained in circulation until 1984. The BBC reported at the time that
Britain's least-loved currency, the halfpenny coin, is leaving the nation's purses after 13 years of almost universal unpopularityIt's time for a new purge of our debased coinage. The 1p, 2p, and 5p coins should definitely go, as they are worth less than a 1971 halfpenny. I'd be happy to see the back of the 10p as well, and I'm sure shopkeepers would agree.
Anthony Beaumont-Dark, Conservative MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, whose question in the Commons prompted the Chancellor to sound the coin's death knell, was happy to see it go.
"Most people don't even bother to pick them up when they drop them," he said. "They are glad to be rid of them."