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Updated: 17 Feb 2020

No 1p or 2p coins struck for first time in decades: is the penny at risk?

Is the future of copper coins under threat again?

The Royal Mint has revealed no new 1p or 2p coins were struck over the past year. The news comes after a report by HM Treasury proposed scrapping pennies altogether - so, is the future of copper coins under threat again?

The last time no new 1p coins were struck was 1972, for 2p coins it was 1984.

There were also no new £2 coins struck this year, although this isn't quite as rare - 2017 was the last time no new £2s were produced.

So what's going on? Which? looks at why The Royal Mint stopped striking 1p, 2p and £2 coins in 2018-19, what the future of cash is and how to find a rare coin in your spare change.

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Why were no new pennies struck in 2018?

Put simply, the Treasury says we have enough.

Right, now there are around 10.5bn 1p coins, 6.3bn 2p coins and 494m £2 coins in circulation across the UK.

It's up to HM Treasury to tell the The Royal Mint how many coins to make to meet the demands of UK banks and the Post Office.

The Treasury says UK coins have an impressive lifespan, and rarely need replacing.

Could 1p and 2p coins be scrapped?

With the use of cash in decline across the UK, the future of copper coins has often been called into question.

It looked as if the penny's days were numbered in March 2018, when then Chancellor Philip Hammond called for views on the current mix of notes and coins in circulation.

Research by the Treasury found that six in ten pennies are only used once in a transaction, then stashed away or lost. One in 12 are thrown straight in the bin.

But there was a backlash from the public, MPs and charities, who argued that many 1p and 2p coins end up in donation boxes. We donated over £320m in loose change to charities last year alone, according to one survey.

In May this year, the Treasury decided that the copper coins were still needed and confirmed that all denominations from the penny to the £50 note would continue to be available for 'years to come'.

Read more:do 1p and 2p coins have a future?

How to spot a rare 1p or 2p coin

Unlike other coins, the design of the 1p and 2p coins haven't changed much over the years. However, there are still rare finds that could interest collectors.

One of the most valuable 1p coins ever sold was the 1933 'old penny', which in 2016 fetched £72,000 at auction. The Royal Mint struck less than 10 pennies with the 1933 date, making it incredibly sought-after.

You might have better luck finding a 1971 'new penny' which may be valuable because they are the coins from the first run after decimalisation was introduced.

When it comes to 2p coins, it's worth looking out for error coins.

In 1982, all 2p coins began to be stamped with 'two pence' instead of 'new pence'. However, a minting error in 1983 meant some coins were stamped with the old-style wording.

This means that if you find a 1983 2p with the 'new pence' error, it could be worth a premium. In July 2019, a set of uncirculated 1983 2p error coins sold for £1,100.

How to spot a rare £2 coin

The £2 coin hasn't been around for long - it launched in June 1998 - but it has stirred excitement among collectors.

The coins designed to commemorate the 2002 Commonwealth Games are the rarest £2s in the UK.

There were 2.5m issued with the same design but four different flags to celebrate the participating Home Nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A series of new commemorative £2 coins are also about to enter circulation, including an RAF, WW1 Armistice, Frankenstein and Captain Cook design.

What to do if you find a valuable coin

If you discover a rare coin in your change, you should consult The Royal Mint to confirm it's genuine.

You will usually get a letter to confirm its authenticity.

Once you have this you can sell it at an auction, online or through a coin dealer.

It's important to realise that a coin's value is in the eyes of the collector, so this will impact how much someone is willing to pay.

The video below explains the different types of coins you can collect and for more information about how to spot an illegitimate coin, check out our investigation into the dark side of the coin investment craze.