The Gold and Silver Mine
By: Douglas Keefe
After much hand-wringing, arguing and gnashing of teeth (similar to Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings), Britain has now divorced its self from the European Union and returned to self-rule rather than being governed by bureaucrats in Brussels. Fortunately for Britain , when they did join the European Union, unlike other countries they kept their own coinage system rather than adapt the euro as other countries had done. Were this not the case, a whole new range of coins and currency would have had to be created. I can’t imagine the chaos that would have created.
Britain’s monetary unit is called the pound, like ours is called the dollar, and has been in use for hundreds of years. The name has Latin origins with the word “Libra” meaning weight and the word “Ponda”, pound. The crossover to mass was that the monetary value of one pound was equal to that of a pound of sterling silver at the time. (hence the term “pound sterling”) The “Libra” has been dropped, but is still considered when the stylized letter “L” is used to denote the denomination “pound” after the number, same as we use the dollar sign “$” in front of our number.
The British one pound notes were replaced by a coin in 1983 during the tenure of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, and was nicknamed the “Maggie” because of her effort to implement the changeover. The custom with countries that had kings and queens was to place the image of the ruling monarch on the face of the coin, so since Elizabeth II was the queen of Britain (and still is), her image was placed on the face of the new pound coin. Since its’ creation, there have been 4 different images of Queen Elizabeth on the pound coin, reflecting her changing appearance (after all, she is getting older). Reverses of the 1 pound coin changed each year, although there has been some repetition.
Unfortunately, the 1 pound coin Has been highly counterfeited, estimates from the Royal Mint are 3% of all pound coins are counterfeit, but other estimates feel there are twice that amount of counterfeits in circulation. One way to tell a counterfeit is if the wrong reverse was used for the year of the coin. To combat counterfeiting, a new 1 pound coin has been minted that is 12 sided and bi-metallic which hopefully will alleviate the problem. The original 1 pound coins have been pulled from circulation and the metallic content is being repurposed by melting the coins and reforming the resultant metal as the outer ring in the new bi-metallic pound coins.