Published on March 26th, 2015 | by Sarah Jubb

Penny For Your Thoughts?

With the arrival of the new portrait of the Queen that will be soon appearing on all our coins and the reveal of the new one pound coin, here at the Post Office Shop we thought to look back at the history of our currency. Each week will look at the history and design changes of a coin denomination in the British currency, the oldest currency in the world that is still in use and has been continuously used since its introduction in the 8th century.

Our first article focuses on the one pence coin, which has been circulated in its current post-decimalisation form since 1971. King Offa introduced the first penny to England in the latter half of the 8th century and it has remained in use in one form or another since then. The original penny was abbreviated to ‘d’ for the Roman coin, the denarius.

After the decimalisation of the British currency in 1971, the penny became the equal of one hundredth of a pound. This means that there are 100 pennies in one pound, and the abbreviation simply became ‘p’ such as 1p. While the one pence coin is legal tender, it is only accepted for amounts up to 20p, after which other coins should be used.

Originally the one pence coin was made out of bronze until 1992 when they became copper-plated steel due to a price increase in metals. One pence coins from 1971 to 2008 featured the crowned portcullis with chains designed by Christopher Ironside along with either ‘NEW PENNY’ (1971-1981) or ‘ONE PENNY (1982-2008).

Since 2008, British currency has featured a design that depicts the Royal Shield when placed together, designed by Matthew Dent. The one pence coin depicts the left side of the shield between the first and third quarter. The one pence also remains the most circulated coin the UK as there are an estimated 11,278 million one pence coins in circulation.

A Royal Mint tradition with pennies has been to give babies that are born on the same day as a future monarch a silver penny that is struck with their year of birth. As well as this, it has also been traditional to give a new baby a silver penny to wish them a healthy life full of wealth.

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