I have a vague memory of long ago playing ‘shops’ with my cousin and using ‘pretend’ coins. They were bi-metallic and designed with values representing the currency of the time, pounds, shillings and pence, but unlike the real thing.
Brian Ridley, ‘oldschooldetectorist’ on the Northern Relic Hunters forum, recently showed me a coin from his collection, which he presumed was ‘play money’, but they are much more interesting than that!
What’s the fascinating story? In the 1840’s the Royal Mint came to the conclusion that making large copper coins was no longer economical, and tentative plans were being made to replace them.
They were also heavy to carry around. Enter renowned Birmingham medalist Joseph Moore. Joe liked the idea so much that he set about and created his own design for the new coins.
The outer ring of his coins was made of copper and the inner of silver (in some cases brass). Queen Victoria adorned the other side with the inscription ONE PENNY (or HALFPENNY) MODEL, so protecting Moore from prosecution under the counterfeit laws. The model halfpenny was produced in 1844.
The small, light and eye-catching bi-metallic coins proved to be very popular, especially in the Birmingham area, prompting the Royal Mint to make an announcement that the coins were definitely not legal tender. However, they were clearly impressed by Moore’s work and offered him a job, which he turned down! The MODEL pennies and halfpennies continued to circulate until about 1860.
Perhaps Moore was just ahead of his time. The new UK pound coin that entered circulation in March 2017 has a nickel-brass outer and a nickel-plated solid
alloy inner. It would be nice to think that Moore had had some influence in the design. The bi-metallic £2 coin was introduced in 1998.
N.B. There is a variety with PENNY reading PENNEY and this is rare.