Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Support your local coppers

I was reading Monday's copy of The Guardian today (it's good to be the last to know) and absorbed with some interest an article about our decreasing use of low-denomination coins, a.k.a. coppers, or as cockney pseudo hardknob Danny Dyer would probably refer to them in an artificially gravelly voice on a budget satellite channel production, 'the bacon'. Apparently people have become so carefree with pennies that £65m worth have gone missing (that's pennies alone. Not Penny's alone - that means something altogether different. And anyway, aren't we all alone when finally confronted with our inevitable death?) and 5.9m of them are down the backs of settees. Not mine though - I've checked and I could only find four. Maybe the other 5,899,996 are down yours. When all of the tuppences estimated to be missing are also included, it's another £25m, totalling a cumulative £90m in lost coppers. Frika.

The timing of this article is most interesting, given that I've recently started my own copper-retention system by emptying them from my pockets into a disused milk bottle. The long-term aim is, of course, to collect so many that it'll eventually be worth taking the coins to empty into those machines you find at places like ASDA. It weighs them all and then gives you a receipt which can be spent in the shop: an ingenious idea. I remember my Auntie giving me three handbags of coppers she'd collected over a 15 year period in her Chorley home and saying I could redeem them for personal use. Having taken them to ASDA and exchanged them for a receipt worth £58, I promptly secured a sizeable haul of beer, light pastry items and wet wipes. Extremely worthwhile.

All of these people striving for plastic dominance at our checkouts and all those responsible for proposing the silly Oyster Card-like system for low-value convenience products should hang their heads and respect the coppers. Obviously they have their downsides, such as making your hands smell and weighing your pockets down to an extent that persuades you you've developed a hernia (and I don't just mean a photo of one), but they're also oddly comforting. Have you ever sampled that climactic, perverse thrill of being asked for 42p for a Twix in a shop and managing to give the exact amount after counting up piles of pennies? It's usually followed with a wild smile from the till operator who, thanks to such copper deliveries, no longer has to be plagued with fear about asking their miserable, abrupt supervisor for new bags of change. It's a sensation almost unmatched in modern civilisation as we all grow increasingly detached from our common essence. Coin circulation is one of the last bastions of human interaction, however indirect it may be. The constant exchange of bacteria and dried skin we anonymously exchange keeps us all connected. If these bad plastic bastards have their way then even that will die out.


Blogger Dan said...

Lovely stuff.

I went down to the local Coinstar (TM) machine with my haul recently, only to find it was out of order (in the sense that it wasn't working rather than it called me a prick and tried to punch me).

The chap in the Sainsbury's t-shirt (strange because I was in Morrisons) said "it's foooooool pal, dead popular, ken". I'm sure that proves some kind of point.

It's always hard to know when to take the plunge and cash in on the coins; I usually try and leave it until I can't really lift the Coinstar (TM) bag that came with the local freesheet without feeling slightly breathless.

On getting back from holiday last year, I had £1.63 in the bank and two days to go until pay day. My Coinstar (TM...alright you get the idea) collection, you could say, saved my life (or enabled me to buy cheese, bread and two Pot Noodles, at least).

This comment sounds like a collection of quotes from housewives for the Coinstar website.

Talking of which, taken from there:

"Coinstar wants to find the UK equivalent to Edmond Knowles who cashed in 1,308,459 pennies (or $13,084.59) at his local Coinstar machine."

Edmond, I salute you. I wonder if he looked nervously over his shoulder and felt a pang of guilt at ignoring the 'Donate to Charity' option like I do?

And finally, given the 6% that Coinstar take, what denomination really isn't worth putting through the machine? I draw the line at 10p.

Crivens, I didn't think I had so much to say about Coinstar.

November 22, 2007 9:59 am  
Blogger Paddy said...

It must be quite demoralising to be told a Coinstar(TM) machine isn't able to deal with you because it's so popular. It's like the way everyone tried to tag on to The Popular One at school, when in reality The Popular One had little time for anyone. You don't mean anything to the Coinstar (TM) machine - it'll just use you for your copper and spit you back out.

Putting a 10p piece in a Coinstar machine would be totally nuts. Coins that can actually pay for an item should never be sacrificed to the 6% system. Wham, Irn-Bru and Bruiser bars are still widely available for 10p, and provide a better use of the coin than exchanging it for 4p credit.

I wonder if Coinstar will die a slow, painful death now that the soaring price of copper has rendered 1p and 2p pieces less valuable than the actual copper they're made of?

November 23, 2007 10:11 am  
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