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I am worried that there is no more money for small coins. The Isle of Man has become the first part of the British Isles to start phasing out copper, with its Treasury arguing last month that it costs more to produce than it is worth. The Economist magazine has called on the UK government to follow suit and scrap the penny.
The Royal Mint says the 1p and 2p coins “remain an integral part of the UK currency” and that the Government safeguarded their future in 2019. But surely, as we move towards a cashless society where they dominate Internet banking and card transactions, the disappearance of the humble police is only a matter of time.
If so, that would be problematic for me. Like millions of homes, my family owns an absolute ton of them. Over the years we seem to have accumulated stashes of coins, foreign notes brought back from holidays abroad and now extinct coins scattered around the house.
They are found in pots on bedside tables, mixed with old buttons and household waste jumbled around the back of kitchen cupboards and, of course, on the back of the sofa. I decided to go ahead and do a good cleaning now. Even if the small coins are not eliminated at all, I could do with converting the crowded copper coins into hard cash. So I put hands to work.
The meter is gone… then HSBC says no
It’s a large stash of shrapnel that my family collected at home: four heavy bags weighing 24 kilos (53 pounds). I drag the bags down the main street to drop them off at the counter of my local HSBC branch in the Hertfordshire town of Bishop’s Stortford. Having closed 114 banks last year, it should be grateful that they are still open, but as a victim of a “transformation programme”, the counter has been uprooted.
Old money bags: Toby Walne uses the Coinstar machine at his local Sainsbury’s and wins £215.75… but loses £28 in commission
Instead, there are five machines and eight interview rooms. Assistant Sandra explains that the renewal was done three years ago and admits that the three payment machines marked “checks”, “notes” and “business” are of no use to me. She points out a branch in Harlow, 12 miles south, that still has a counter and a machine that might accept my small change “if it works.”
She is polite and tries to be helpful, handing out 100 plastic bags to hold loose change before they can be accepted. These are 1p or 2p pieces up to £1 per bag; 5p or 10p pieces up to £5 in a bag; 20 or 50p pieces up to £10 per bag; or £1 or £2 coins up to £20 in a bag. Sandra says that although the bank can’t help, the post office may be able to accept the cash if it is packaged, up to a limit of £250 in a single trip. But stacking more than 5,000 coins per denomination and bagging them will take me all day, by which time the post office would be closed.
Metro Bank customers can also use a ‘magic money making machine’ that automatically deposits small change into their account. Some major banks, such as Barclays, HSBC and NatWest, also have machines that deposit your small change into accounts for free at selected branches.
Lesson learned: You can pocket change at any major bank that has a counter. Main branches may have machines that also take your coins and transfer them to your account.
Sainsbury’s saves the day… but at a price
There is a Coinstar machine at my local Sainsbury’s supermarket that can accept bags of small change. Sitting next to a photo booth, he attracts customers with signs that say “coins in, money spent.” But the “fees, terms and conditions” fine print on the screen reveals that there is a “coin counting fee: 11.5 per cent of the total value of coins counted plus £0.25p per transaction”. I open the cloth bags and start pouring in the coins. It takes at least five minutes to sift all the cash through a narrow mailbox grate.
Shoppers look at me curiously as the sound of cash falling through the machine sounds like they’ve hit the jackpot from a one-armed bandit in Las Vegas. ‘Wow, you have a lot of coins! Please wait while we catch up,’ he says on the screen. The total comes to a staggering £215.75. Satisfyingly, there is a breakdown of the coins (from 1,838 pennies to two £2 coins) with a total of 4,782 accepted. More than 300 coins and assortments are spit out because they are foreign or no longer in circulation. The machine pockets around £28 in commission. I take the receipt to the counter and am handed a handful of crisp bills.
Lesson learned: If I had packaged the coins and delivered them to a bank that accepts coins or a post office, I would have avoided paying the high fee.
Websites offer hosting for obsolete currencies
For old coins and expired banknotes, another option is a specialized website such as Leftover Currency or Cash4Coins. Examining the remaining 300 or so coins, I find mostly obsolete 50 pence and 1 pound coins, and euros or US cents.
Banks only accept old denomination British currency at their discretion. Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander and building society Nationwide say they will put your old £1 coins into an account you have with them. You can also use a post office, if your bank has signed up to receive deposits at the post office. The Bank of England will accept old notes, but not coins.
I could have contacted the Royal Numismatic Society if something stood out, to be put in touch with a local collectible coin dealer. There are offers like a rare 50p Kew Gardens piece with a Chinese pagoda on one side, valued at up to £750. No machine will be able to identify this, only eagle eyes.
Cash on hand: Banks and building societies are not required to accept overdue pounds sterling
Websites like All Coin Values offer guidance, as do the free smartphone apps CoinSnap and Coinoscope. Surplus currency will pay 75p for old £1 coins, 37p for old 50p pieces and 72p for one euro. But you must post your money before it is paid directly into your bank account. Royal Mail signed for second class delivery costs £4.69 up to 2 kilos. I’m determined not to give away 25p in the pound, so I bag up the old pound coins (smooth edged which went out of circulation in 2017) and head to Nationwide and the change is worth £40.
Lesson learned: Banks and building societies are not obliged to accept my obsolete sterling currency, but it was worth trying your luck.
Charity takes foreign money off my hands
An Oxfam charity shop opposite the bank offers a warm welcome that is a far cry from the big banks’ clinical cost-cutting approach. Volunteer Bob Kisby has no qualms about accepting my money: coins, bills, even foreign currency. Other charities interested in receiving foreign currency include the RNIB, which also accepts old British currency; Age UK; and the Alzheimer’s Society, which also accepts obsolete money.
I have also raised 600 Indian rupees, 120 Hong Kong dollars, 100 Norwegian krone and 100 Moroccan dirhams, all from family vacations. The donation amounts to £35, enough to buy three goats for those in need in Malawi.
Lesson learned: The shrapnel you donate to charities can make a difference.
I raised £288… but it could have been more!
Our treasure trove was certainly worth checking out and with minimal effort I pocketed £288.07. It was a shame the bank couldn’t accept my old £1 coins; If I had had them I would have made £30.
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