Happy birthday, £2 coin

15 June 2018

The £2 coin is 20 years old today, and to commemorate the occasion, comparison website GoCompare Money has unearthed 10 fascinating facts about the youngest and most valuable coin in circulation.

1. The £2 coin was launched on 15 June 1998, on the day when Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes were the goalscorers in England’s 2-0 victory over Tunisia in Marseille in their opening game of the World Cup.

2. The launch date was delayed by seven months, after the vending machine industry complained they would not be ready in time, so the very first £2 coins are dated 1997.

3. The Royal Mint launched a competition to design the reverse of the first £2 coin, which was won by art teacher Bruce Rushin from Norfolk. His design featured concentric rings depicting technological progress through the Iron Age, Industrial Revolution and computer age. It is inscribed with the words “Standing on the shoulders of giants” by Sir Isaac Newton, a former Master of the Royal Mint.

4. The £2 coin’s gold outer ring is nickel-brass and the silver centre is cupro-nickel. It was the first bimetallic coin issued in the UK since tin farthings with a copper plug were minted in 1692. 

5. There are 37 different £2 coin designs, commemorating, among others, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the engineers Trevithick and Brunel and the anniversaries of Magna Carta and the London Underground.

6. Three new designs are being introduced this year, commemorating 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankensteinand the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force and the First World War Armistice.

7. There are 479 million £2 coins in circulation, worth £958 million – the smallest circulation of the eight British coins but the second-largest in terms of value. The next smallest circulation, the 50p, is more than twice as large, with 1.05 billion. The biggest circulation is the 1p, with 11.4 billion of them jangling in people’s pockets, and the biggest value is the £1, worth £1.67 billion.

8. Almost a third (31%) of UK adults who save money in a piggy bank or coin jar save £2 coins.

9. When the £2 coin was introduced in 1998, a loaf of sliced white bread was 52p (£1.06 today), a litre of petrol was 66p (£1.19 today) and a pint of draught lager was £1.89 (£3.61 today).

10. The 2002 Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games design is the rarest £2 coin in circulation. It is one of four designs made for each of the home nations, distinguished only by the tiny detail of a national flag, and only 485,000 were minted. It’s worth getting the magnifying glass out, as the coins go for £40 to £50 on eBay.

Will the £2 coin – or, indeed, any coin – survive another 20 years? Matt Sanders of GoCompare Money is not so sure: “Since the £2 coin’s launch 20 years ago, contactless technologies have resulted in Britain becoming an increasingly cashless society. According to industry figures, cash now represents less than half of all payments made by consumers, and it remains to be seen if the £2 will still be in use in another 20 years.”



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