Murray Stamp Shop, Edinburgh
Retail shop, auctioneers, mail order
19 July 2015, one of the BBC
News "most read stories" was about the 2p coin which
had sold for £800. And you can understand why
this might raise attention. Here's a link to the story (opens
new window). It's a great story, because the
coin was found in a charity collection box. The image
space to the left should link to the image on the BBC
website, provided by the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
Let's get a couple of definitions clear before going into any detail. What we commonly call "copper" coins have actually been bronze since 1860, and more recently (1992) changed to copper-plated steel. The coins we call "silver" were sterling (.925) silver until 1919, then were 50% silver up to 1946, and have been made in cupro-nickel since 1947.
It seems to be the case that possibly some cupro-nickel blanks may have become mixed with bronze blanks before a batch of 2p coins were made, and that some cupro-nickel twopences might have entered circulation.
But here's the problem. It is possible to change the appearance of a bronze coin chemically. (I'm no chemist, but by memory if the bronze coin in immersed in a particular chemical, then subjected to an electric current, it draws the tin or nickel to the surface. Many school pupils will have done it over the years in chemistry labs. I'll correct these details once somebody sets me straight.)
We were shown an example by a client about a year ago. It looked like a cupro-nickel two pence piece. In fact this client had asked another auctioneer about it, who was willing to put it up for sale and expected it would get a few hundred pounds. I had someone look at it who really knows his metals and after very close examination we decided that the example we were looking at was just a normal 2p which had been treated.
My guess in that the one that raised £800 (on Ebay) for charity is another of the same. There's no mention in their sale description of it having been given an expert examination. I hope the person who bought it is happy with it ! And sure enough, within hours another had appeared for sale on Ebay, with a picture in which the coin looks yellowish, and which had reached its £250 reserve within a few hours. Rubbish picture, no authentication . . . . and someone's willing to spend £250 ?
So, the bottom line is; if you find one don't get excited yet, and don't even consider buying one that hasn't been checked by a proper expert in the field.
See also article about the confusion surrounding 2p "TWO PENCE" and "NEW PENCE" inscriptions.