Quick, you’ve got to spend £400m by next Sunday
THERE is just one week left until the old, round £1 coins are phased out – and the hunt is on for an estimated 400 million that are still in circulation in purses, piggy banks and down the backs of sofas.
Next Sunday the old pounds cease to be legal tender. It means shops and businesses are no longer obliged to accept them, although there will be an unspecified period during which they can be exchanged at banks for the new 12-sided coins. The new coins are made by recycling the old ones and more than two million a day are being melted down at the Royal Mint’s fortress-like foundry, in Llantrisant, outside Cardiff.
Workers feed 55,000 old coins at a time into four furnaces, where they are melted at 1,500C. The composition of the liquid alloy is adjusted by adding several secret ingredients before it is processed into sheets weighing 2½ tons, from which the new coins are punched out. More than £1.7 billion of the old coins, which were introduced in 1983, have so far been sent back to the Mint for reprocessing. One worker said: ‘If you think about the money you are handling, it does your head in. I try to just think of it as metal.’ As the old coins, left, vanish, the most sobering statistic is how their value has melted with time. In 1983, each was worth the equivalent of £3.10 today.