Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keith Hann

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keith Hann

Article excerpt

Byline: keith hann

GORDON Brown has proclaimed this as the Age of Change, but it's not like that where I live. Try handing over a pounds 20 note to pay for The Journal in my village shop and see how far you get.

Joking apart (because Robert at the shop is a pushover, really), one of the big changes coming up really does involve our small change. I had an ominous email from the Royal Mint last week, announcing that next March they will implement "the biggest design change in British coinage since decimalisation . . . reflecting a more contemporary, 21st Century Britain".

They suggested that I might like to buy a final reminder of the cherished old designs in a limited edition proof set, available in silver, gold or even platinum (the last a snip at just pounds 4,995.00).

I don't know why my heart sinks at this news. Like most people of my age, I have always considered the decimal coin designs foisted on us in 1968-71 to be embarrassingly babyish, compared with the unique and glorious coinage they replaced. You only had to handle an old penny or half crown to know that this was a country sure of its place in the world. Better than all the others, that is, with their lightweight, tatty currencies.

The nation's aptitude for mental arithmetic was founded on having four farthings to the penny, 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. Everyone also enjoyed a free history lesson in their purse or pocket, with every handful of copper likely to yield coins from five reigns.

The images on the reverse of the coins, such as Britannia on the penny, changed little over the centuries. Surely that is how it should be?

The symbols of national identity and royal authority are timeless. The most respected British coin around the world, the gold sovereign, has borne the same Pistrucci image of St George and the dragon since 1817.

What will feature on the new coins of switched-on, tuned-in, hip New Britain?

Hoodies, crack addicts, asylum seekers? …

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