The Story of the Modern English Pound
Back in ancient times, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and an old man had been commissioned to construct a large boat and stuff two of each creature inside of it, the ‘modern’ pound was actually made of paper. In fact, it always had been this way and we all really liked it. So, when the first pound coin was introduced in 1983, it was received with a whole lot of criticism and negativity. A lot of people simply couldn’t get their heads around the concept of a pound coin; they found it to be fiddly, bulky and rather weighty in their pockets. Not only that, with the paper pound, it had actually looked and felt like money. This new coin didn’t have the same vibe about it at all and simply didn’t give people the impression that it had precisely the same monetary value.
However, time is well known for being a great healer and not only did everyone learn to accept the pound coin after their initial upset, they actually grew to like it. Perhaps after the shock of our paper pound being reduced to a lumpy little metal nugget, we all began to see its merits. After all, pound coins were nice to stack whilst you were counting your money and it soon became clear that they could be jolly attractive with their different designs. Looking back at it all, I think it is pretty safe to say that most of us actually became quite attached to the round pound. And the evidence of this can be seen first-hand when we look at the prices that pound coins are fetching on eBay and the like since it became public knowledge that the round pound coin would be withdrawn and replaced with an updated, ultra-modern and uber-secure twelve-sided edition.
[image by Mik]
It is ironic that a coin first met with outright derision and criticism should go on to hold such a special place in the hearts of so many people. But then again, human beings are well-known for being strange and complicated creatures.
The round pound was with us for thirty-four years and in that time there were more than twenty-five different designs (including special commemorative and silver proof editions). Not bad going for a coin that many of us had no time for at all when it first went into circulation.
Of course, we recently saw another big change come about which meant that our (now) beloved pound is not actually round at all – it has morphed into a Dodecagon. Again, this new phase for the English pound at first caused a fuss. To begin with it has become more like that two pound coin with its bi-metallic design. And, at least at the time of writing, the days of different and collectible designs being issued appear to have past. Perhaps The Royal Mint have now decided to concentrate on fifty pences, ten pences and two pound coins when it comes to commemorative designs. It would appear so for the moment.
Love it or hate it, collect it or don’t, the English pound is a little like Dr Who with its many incarnations. And this in itself deserves a little bit of respect simply because it has successfully moved with the times so well.
Who knows, one day we may even have a pound that is made from plastic.
© Article and images (except where stated) copyright Mik Smith 2019