A real money-spinner

Mark 30 years of the UK #163;1 coin with a wealth of currency facts

When the #163;1 coin was introduced 30 years ago, to replace the #163;1 note, not everyone welcomed it.

The prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, told MPs in 1984 that the coins were "not very popular", and the deadline for withdrawing the note was extended. (The coins did prove popular with counterfeiters, however, and today remain the most commonly forged British coinage, with about 44 million fakes in circulation.)

The words decus et tutamen (Latin for "an ornament and a safeguard") are inscribed around the edges of the coins, which have an expected lifespan of about 40 years. The image of Queen Elizabeth II that appears on one side of the coins has been changed twice: in 1985 and 1998.

The Bank of England first issued banknotes in 1694, and before 1745 they could be written for irregular amounts. The first coloured notes were issued in 1928.

Teachers could use the anniversary of the #163;1 coin as the basis of several lessons. Why not look at the history of money? You could also explore the value of the materials used to create coins or the choice of images used on banknotes around the world. How were they selected? What role do they play? What do they represent?

Ask children to design their own banknotes. Or go further and introduce them to the world of the alchemists, who spent their lives trying to turn lead into gold.

How do your students perceive money? Where do they think it comes from? Most will receive some form of pocket money and may have strong ideas about how they think it should be spent. Who are the spenders and who the savers?

The first coins were produced in Lydia, in modern-day Turkey, in the 7th century BC, although metal objects were used as currency earlier than this. The coins were made from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. They were stamped with a design, such as a lion's head, on one side and a simple punch on the other.


- Work out how much you are worth: how tall are you in #163;1 coins?

- Compare the images on the backs of different #163;1 coins. What stories do they tell? Why do you think these images were used?

- Who would you choose to appear on a coin?

- What if you woke up tomorrow and money no longer existed? How would your life change?

- If money did not exist, how would people get what they need, such as food or clothes?

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