Tags: penny, pitching
The future of 1p and 2p coins may be in doubt – but it seems their use goes way beyond simply paying for things.
Treasury officials are seeking views on the future mix of UK notes and coins as we increasingly move towards digital and mobile payments.
It conjures up the image of people throwing their smartphones, rather than coppers, into a fountain for good luck – although Downing Street has backed away from a plan to scrap copper coins.
According to BBC News readers, viewers and listeners there are many other uses for these coins, from home improvements to baking. Here is a selection.
1. Tulip fever
Many flower sellers and lovers swear by the use of pennies in a vase to keep them from drooping.
Reader Chris Stone says: “The question the government should really be asking is if they end copper coins, what will we put in our vases with tulips? Is this part of their strategy to restrict growth?”
They say the copper is important, and it is unlikely they would want to dunk a fiver in the vase – even though the new polymer banknotes are waterproof.
2. Language matters
From pretty penny to penny-wise, there are dozens of phrases in the English language in which pennies play a part.
A number of people have said this is part of British culture.
If they are replaced by digital payments, will the language become less elegant?
“A crypto-currency for your thoughts” just isn’t poetic.
3. Home improvement
Various uses have been found for pennies among DIY enthusiasts.
Some have used thousands of pennies as flooring or to tile walls, although it takes quite a bit of patience and glue to achieve the desired effect.
Others have found more practical uses.
On Twitter, DogKick says they are “great as a standby screwdriver for slot-headed screws”.
4. Child’s play
Teachers swear by coins when it comes to helping youngsters learn to count and add up. It is best to start with ones and twos, and considerably more challenging if they could only use fives and tens.
BBC News website readers have also expressed their worries over the future of games using pennies.
Paul Watts says: “I save 2p coins during the year and my family use them to play the card game Newmarket at Christmas.
“There is a lot of joy in everyone’s faces when the kitty builds up. But when it is won it, only amounts to around £2.40, but then it hasn’t cost anyone a lot of money if they lose!
“Imagine no 2p coins and having to play with 5p coins. That would then be potentially an expensive card game at Christmas -unless you won.”
Others have spoken of switching coins to play the game variously known as penny up, or penny up the wall, or penny pitching – where players try to rebound their coins onto the coins of their opponents.
5. Seaside amusement
The leisure theme continues with an appeal from one reader over the future of a traditional game in the UK’s amusement arcades.
“Snooker Bob”, from Aylesbury, writes: “We love the 2p coin and save them up every year for our trip to the seaside. These would not be the same without a visit to the arcades with their ‘penny falls’.
“A couple of pounds of these coins can give pleasure to adults and children alike. What is the alternative? Five pence pieces are too small and 10 pence coins too expensive. Please do not take this pleasure away and also jeopardise the jobs of those who work in them.”
John White, chief executive of the amusement industry trade body Bacta, agrees, saying that other coins would not work in these machines.
“Generations of British families know and love them. This will destroy the product and a number of seaside arcades in the UK,” he says.
There is another geographical concern, expressed by Linda Wooldridge on Twitter.
“Cities can work with contactless cards, rural and village shops not so – they work on real money,” she says.
6. Self-service revenge
The phrase “unexpected item in the bagging area” remains one of the most annoying in the English language.
So, to get their revenge, or simply for good money management, many shoppers use their stock of pennies to pay at a supermarket self-service checkout machine.
Mariama on Twitter says: “I only ever use the self-service checkout.”
Others worry about the effect on prices.
BBC News website reader Denise Ellis says: “I would be sorry to see the 1p and 2p go – it would be yet another sign of inflation if all prices were rounded up to the nearest 5p or 10p. Having said that though, the pricing of lots of things at £x.99 is annoying.”
David Barber, from St Neots, Cambridgeshire. says: “We must not get rid of 1p and 2p coins. It would be another kick in teeth for those in our country who have very little income, be it pension or benefits. Price increases would need to be a minimum of 5p if there are no lower denomination coins.”
But Gillian Crawley, from Kingswood in Surrey, says: “Of course 1p and 2p coins should be discontinued – they are now pointless, weigh down purses and pockets, and their loss might discourage the ridiculous habit of pricing most things at, for example, £2.99 rather than £3. That fools no one and has been going on for far too long.”
Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, says: “It is important for a proper impact assessment to be carried out before any actions which might restrict the availability of 1p and 2p coins.
“While growing numbers of transactions are paid for electronically, cash is still an essential part of the mix for many small businesses. A retailer wanting to charge 99p should still be able to hand a penny change to a customer who pays with a £1 coin.”
7. Better baking
Sarah Fox, on Twitter, says pennies are “good for blind baking”.
BBC Good Food explains that this is the process of pre-cooking a pastry base – a sure-fire way to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom.
Apparently, the unbaked pie crust is lined with scrunched-up parchment, which can then be weighed down with pennies.
8. Charity donations
Many readers were concerned with the potential loss for charities, as many pop coins in a jar and donate when the jar is full.
Thomas says: “How many other people also deposit this ‘shrapnel’ into charity tins and if we withdrew the coins, how much would income would they lose?”
Andy, from Marlow, says: “I put all my 1p and 2p pieces in charity jars. It isn’t much, but everyone doing it would surely make a difference.”
Charities do face the cost of processing coins, so would no doubt prefer donations by direct debit or in bigger denominations. The question is, whether this would make up for the money lost if there were no coppers to donate?