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British Coin Price Guide

History of the Copper And Bronze Penny


In the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) the copper penny was issued until 1860 and thereafter pennies were minted in bronze.

In 1902 (at the beginning of the reign of Edward VII, 1902-1910) bronze pennies consisted of 9.4 grams of bronze composed of 95% copper, 4% tin, and 1% zinc

By the time the last bronze pennies were struck (in 1967) the composition had slightly altered to 9.4 grams of copper 97%, tin 0.5%, and zinc 2.5%.

By 1992 the intrinsic value of the metal exceeded the face value and new coins were struck from mild steel electroplated with copper. It is these pennies that have magnetic properties and are included in the Magic Penny set. The coins show on the obverse the crowned profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II with the abbreviated Latin inscription: ELIZABETH II D G REG F D ( Elizabeth II by the Grace of God Queen and Defender of the Faith) and the year of issue. The two penny coins show on the reverse side the badge of the Prince of Wales consisting of three ostrich plumes within a coronet with a ribbon bearing the German motto: ICH DIEN (I serve). The reverse of the penny coins show a crowned portcullis. The portcullis motif was first used on coins issued in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) for international trade by the East India Company. The portcullis, a heavy grating suspended by chains to move up and down in vertical grooves as a fortified gateway, was the mint mark of the Tower Mint. The sign is probably based on the great portcullis of 'Traitor's Gate' at the Tower of London.

The decimal penny and two pence coins were issued in 1968 and became legal tender on 15th February 1971. The equivalent value of the new penny was 2.4 old pence and the coins consisted of 3.6 grams of bronze.

Sir Isaac Newton when he was in charge of the Royal Mint considered minting a copper penny in 1702 but the first were introduced in 1797, in the reign of George III (1760-1820), together with the copper two pence. To comply with the connection between the face value and the intrinsic value of the metal the two pence was exactly twice the weight of the penny. This is still the case today.

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Text Box:  Updated 14/5/2017