Sunday, April 06, 2008

New coin designs were revealed to (and instantly reviled by) the waiting British public this week.


I'm not sure about them. It's clever but is it... what? Art? I don't know. I haven't made my mind up yet. I just know that, apart from that moment when a new design of coin or note turns up in your pocket, no one actually looks at the things for more than a moment. We look at money for as long as it takes to work out the value of the coin before handing it over but that's about it. Occasionally we might have a: "Coo, not seen one of those before." when something about the shiny round thing in our hand looks different (it usually means someone's slipped a Zloty into your change at the supermarket) but the novelty soon wears off.

I was surprised to see that they are still going to make pennies.

Why? Pennies are all but obsolete. There is nothing you can buy for a penny these days. Their only uses are to be given as that psychologically important piece of change for items marked up at £299.99. ("It was a bargain, honest! Less than three hundred quid!") and to lurk unnoticed in trouser pockets till they get their chance to clog up a washing machine filter.

How much does it cost to make a penny?

It's not as if they are even very attractive. Old pennies... * - (read this next bit in a croaky old 'When I were a lad, Cadbury's Creme Eggs were twice size they are nowadays, and plums actually tasted of something' voice:) - ** When I were a lad, Pennies were bloody great big things; the size of Wagon Wheels and all sorts of colours, from shiny, freshly-minted (or shiny, fresh from experiments with HP sauce), to blackish, almost featureless, discs used so often and for so long it was sometimes impossible to work out which particular HRH was on the front. Is that George the Fourth? or Edward the Whateverth? (I was always rubbish at my Royals). Some of them were green with the amazing, ages-old patina that makes Bronze statues so wonderful to look at, even when the sculpting is shite. Old pennies were great and as a kid I loved them. I always had this ambition to own a penny from every year of the century - but kept spending them before I got anywhere near realising it.
... and Cadbury's Creme Eggs were bigger - and so were Wagon Wheels.

Today, prompted by the news of the new issue, I pulled down my box with all the old coins that I have acquired over the years. It's not a 'collection', just a place I drop all those Zloties, Kopecs, and other unspendable bits of metal that have turned up in my pockets over the last couple of decades. Holly was fascinated with them, which is not surprising really as there are lots of weird and wonderful bits of coinage in there from all over the world. She really liked the ones that had crinkle-cut edges or holes in. I strung one of the ones with a hole on a piece of cotton thread and made her a pendant. There were a lot of old pennies in there too.

Modern pennies are piddling useless - and rust; there's a lot of iron in them. They look coppery but will stick to a magnet. Coins shouldn't rust! Rust isn't sexy or good looking. They'll look really rubbish when they get old.

Let's just dump the things. Every year the price of everything inexorably rises. Every year the penny in your washing machine is worth less and less. How worthless do they have to get before someone has the courage to junk the things?

*start of weird punctuation.
** end of weird punctuation.

1 comment:

Phoebe said...

1) Please define: Zloty, Kopec, Experiment w/HP sauce. (I know the sauce, but am curious about the experiment).

2) I suspect pennies are around due to sales tax, which can make the roundest of numbers wonky. Although, in Oregon there is no sales tax. That's a reason to get rid of pennies here, and also a reason for you all to come visit. Did I mention there are lots of junk shops?

3) Pennies break cheap front loaders here. So maybe that is another reason for them. The fed is in it with Big Appliances.

4) The design of the new coins is so CONCEPTY! So Designy! My instant feeling was "How embarrassing. What child in the future will want this as a pendant?"

At first I didn't see the whole picture. Just the bits of picture. Which of course, made no sense.

It's very clever, isn't it? And kind of elegant. But the odd little dragon and lion toes are a bit disconcerting.

I can hear the designer "...and you see, all the bits, all the cut up disjointed, yet connected bits, they are like our own culture. All the different peoples - each separate, yet related to the other. All connected! - living in our one nation - ONE nation, do you see? The parts that make up the whole!"

I've been partial to Canada's wildlife coins. Great artist coins would be cool, too. And maybe coins showing the latest technologies - iPods? Dear god. No. But maybe great buildings? Bridges?

I know no one asked me - but these coins, as clever as they are - they lack something...maybe it's just that the crest seems kind of outdated in today's world...I am not sure - is it? It's a huge part of Englandness, I suspect, crests...

I'll shut up now. Sorry.

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