Well minted?

By Paul Lewis , Thursday 19 January 2012

Alphabet I If you are going to put money into a parking meter, a coin-operated telephone, or a vending machine this year it might be worth taking a magnet with you. No, not to try to defeat the mechanism! But to check if your coins will work before you put them in
Parking meterParking meter

From this year all new 5p and 10p coins will be made from steel rather than the traditional cupro-nickel. The move will save the Treasury up to £8 million a year as steel is a lot cheaper than the mix of copper and nickel used previously.

Steel weighs slightly less for the same volume than cupro-nickel. So to keep the new steel coins the same weight and diameter as the old ones they have to be slightly thicker – 1.9mm rather than 1.7mm for a 5p. That extra 0.2mm does not sound much but it will be enough to make many coin slot mechanisms reject the coin.

Lower value coins, 1p and 2p, changed from bronze to steel in 1992 and the price of copper has risen so much those older coins are now worth more for scrap than the face value (though it is illegal to melt them down or export them).

It will be many years before the metal in older 5p and 10p coins are worth more than 5p or 10p for their metal. But steel is much cheaper to buy and lasts longer. A nickel plating will ensure the coins look the same.

The move to steel was announced in the Government’s spending review in autumn 2010. The change was delayed until the start of this year, partly to give the vending machine industry longer to make the necessary changes. The Treasury admits that the costs to the machine operators will probably be £80 million but could be as high as £124 million.

The new coins are being minted now but the Royal Mint says it will be April before they start appearing in our change and the autumn before they become common. Only then will any problems become apparent. So when you pull a handful of change from your pocket to put in a coin slot machine a quick sort with a magnet will pull out the new steels and leave the old cupro-nickel coins that will definitely work.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.


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  • spiraldive

    Posted: Thursday 24 January 2013

    I have just got a new 2012 10p. Its not even round! Shoddy workmanship. The coffee machine at work won't even accept it. This will open the floodgate to forgeries.

  • Don Green

    Posted: Tuesday 24 January 2012

    The Treasury saving us £8m and costing us £80m just about sums up the economic nous of our Government.
    How about requiring that Treasury ministers have had 12 months experience of living on unemployment benefit (and no help from Daddy) before they are allowed to be considered for the job.

  • Ian Hunter

    Posted: Friday 20 January 2012

    Slot machines for rail tickets in Austria are notorious for rejecting coins so it won't be anything new! The rail parking ticket machine at Hampton Court is also notorious for rejecting. Just adds to the stess of life!


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