One thing I learnt as a boy was to always to check my change, not that I had a fear of being short changed. It was just my fascination with the history of our pre decimal coinage system that had a history of over 150 years of legal tender coins that would often be given out in change that interested me. Since the coinage reform in 1816 and changes in 1860 the coinage system in circulation was as solid as a rock. In fact the shilling denomination which circulated as a five pence piece until the introduction of the smaller five pence was the longest running legal tender coin in the world as the 1816 shilling was still classed as a legal tender coin.
The History of British coins has been a glorious one I am sure there are many people over the age of 50 who can still recall spending coins with the head of Queen Victoria on them and remembering to be on the lookout for a penny dated around 1860's & 1870's. With pre decimal coins there was always something to look out for as there were always coins with silver in them to look out for and there were also some many collector rarities. The introduction of the decimal system on 15th February 1971 soon put a end to that and eventually coins just become money. There were very few decimal oddities like the word "New" as in New Pence which was left on a 1983 two pence, plus coins with the head and tails struck out of alignment became highly collectible. Then recently there was a much publicised rarity when the obverse die used for the head of the old style reverse design of the twenty pence was used with the reverse die of the newer partial shield back design. This led to the first legal tender coin in modern times to be struck or mistruck by the Royal Mint without a date on.
Other than that people today in general do not check their change as a habit as they once use to. This soon led to foreign coins appearing in our change, not that foreign coins appearing in our change was something new but the newer foreign coins are more about being the sign of the times. Living on the coastal strip foreign coins historically are more common than inland, however with the increase in foreign holidays and our membership of the European union this has led to foreign coins becoming more common through out the UK than they used to. The most recent addition being the Polish 20 Groszy which is almost the same size as a five pence piece.
I am very familiar which most of the older foreign coins that turn up in Thanet like French and Belgian Francs from the Sally Ferry days and left over coins from holidays to Spain, Yugoslavia and Greece. So what is the position today ?
Well, as predicted lower denomination Euro coins do seem to be appearing everywhere from bit boxes at auctions, charity boxes and in our change. The coins from east European states are on the rise due to the influx of migrant workers and I have a selection of samples from Poland, Romania, Hungry and Croatia all retrieved from change. Some coins are so obvious but there are many than can easily be mistaken such as any coin that is seven sided can be mistaken for the Fifty Pence and there are Bi Metallic coins that are mistaken for two pound coins. In some cases the value of the foreign coin is worth more than the coin it is mistaken for, a example being the American quarter. This past quarter from my various sources I have picked up eleven examples of American quarters retrieved from change. Above I have scanned some samples of the coins I have come across since June.
I have set up a system of disposing of the coins. Firstly I collect samples, The American, Swiss and Euro coins I keep and sell as currency on ebay. The copper and bronze foreign coins I sell as scrap to a local scrap yard. Other legal tender foreign denominations, cupro nickel coins and pre decimal British coins I give to the British Red Cross in King Street, Ramsgate.