Published on April 8th, 2015 | by Sarah Jubb
The History Of The Five Pence Coin
The next article in our coin history series focuses on the smallest coin in British currency, the five pence coin. Unlike the one pence and two pence coins, which began circulation in 1971 after decimalisation, the five pence was introduced in 1968.
Before 1968 the five pence coin was known as the shilling which had been worth one twentieth of a pound, or twelve pence. The shilling was originally known as the testoon but became known as the shilling in the sixteenth century. They were originally made from silver and changed to cupronickel from 1947 to 1970.
After decimalisation, shilling’s continued to be legal tender until 1990 and retained the value of five pence. From 1990 however they were withdrawn from circulation, leaving only the current five pence coins in use. The original five pence coins were larger than the coins currently in circulation and were demonetised in 1990 along with the remaining shilling coins, leaving only the smaller coins as legal tender.
Similarly to the one pence and two pence coins, the five pence coin has changed from being made from cupronickel to nickel plated steel since 2012. The reason for this is due to the increasing price of metal, making it easier and cheaper to mint new coins.
The five pence coin, along with the ten pence coin, is only legal tender up to the sum of £5. As such it is acceptable to refuse payment if someone tries to pay for a sum greater than this in only 5p and 10p coins.
The original design of the five pence coin featured a crowned thistle on the reverse designed by Christopher Ironside. This design featured from 1971 until 2008, after which it featured part of the Royal Shield design by Matthew Dent. The five pence coin has the centre of the shield, showing the four quarters joining together, making it the centre coin when placed together with the other coins. As with all other coins the Queen’s portrait is featured on the obverse.