30 years of the £1 coin!

When the first pound coin was minted 30 years ago this month, we were in the midst of a recession. David Bowie was topping the charts with Let’s Dance, Vauxhall was launching its new Nova supermini, and a gruesome new horror film called The Evil Dead was shocking audiences.

Fast-forward 30 years and we’re in recession again. Bowie is back in the album charts with The Next Day, Vauxhall has just launched its new supermini, the Adam, and a remake of The Evil Dead is about to be released.

Some things never change, eh?

But the pound and its spending power have changed dramatically since it was first minted on April 21, 1983. Read on as we take a fond look back on the history of the pound coin.

Then and now

Back when the pound was first minted, the average cost of a pint of milk was 271% less than it is today – putting it at around 18p if we take today’s average to be 50p.

Bread has gone up by 335% since 1983, so while you might pick up a loaf for around £1.50 in 2013, that same loaf would have cost you around 45p in the early eighties.

According to our research, a pound would have bought you 1.4 pints of beer in 1983. Today, your pound would buy you roughly a third of a pint. Also, Manchester United fans could watch 34 minutes of a game for a pound in ‘83, but they’d only get three minutes of a match for the same money today.

The national average salary has risen from £6,087 in 1983 to £24,087 today – an increase of 395%.  However, while the UK unemployment rate is currently hovering around the 8% mark, it was closer to 12% in the early eighties.

Meanwhile, house prices have risen far quicker than average salaries.

At the moment, the average price of a house in Britain stands at £163,943. That’s 519% higher than in 1983 when you could buy a home for £26,471, according to data from Halifax’s House Price Index and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Changing face of savings

In April 1983, the Bank of England base rate stood at 10.6%, which was great for savers but not so great for borrowers. The average savings rate in 1983 was 6.75% (though inflation was higher than it is today, at 4%).

The tables have since turned, as base rate has languished at 0.5% for the past 46 months and inflation stands at 2.8%, which means borrowers are prospering while savers have to work harder for decent returns.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there for today’s savers – and there are even some competitive accounts you can open with nothing more than a humble £1 coin.

Coventry Building Society’s Poppy ISA is the current market-leading variable rate cash ISA, paying a tax-free 2.60%. It can be opened with just £1 but you cannot transfer in existing ISA funds. The rate has a 0.60% bonus for 12 months, bringing it down to 2.00% thereafter.

Coventry Building Society also offers a standard easy access account, its Online Saver, which pays an annual rate of 2.00% and includes a 0.40% bonus for 12 months. Again, it can be opened with £1. However, you can only make four penalty-free withdrawals per year.

Alternatively, the Scottish Widows Instant Saver account pays 1.70% and has no bonus. It can be opened with £1 and you can make unlimited withdrawals.

£1 coin trivia

As the 30-year anniversary of the £1 coin approaches, you can give yourself an advantage at the local pub quiz with the following trivia:

  • More than 2billion £1 coins have been minted since 1983.
  • 1 in 35 £1 coins currently in circulation are counterfeit.
  • The majority of the coin (70%) is comprised of copper. The rest is nickel (5.5%) and zinc (24.5%).
  • In its first year, enough £1 coins were minted to have bought the island nation of Dominica.
  • When it was introduced, the coin was nicknamed the ‘round pound’ to distinguish it from the £1 note.
  • £1 would buy you 0.01 Bitcoins – a relatively new decentralised, digital currency used for online transactions.
  • The origin of the slang ‘quid’ is disputed. Some say it comes from the Latin ‘quid pro quo’, meaning ‘this for that’. Some say it comes from the Gaelic ‘mo chud’, meaning ‘my money’. Some say it’s a reference to Quidhampton, where the Royal Mill was once based and others say it refers to Lord Quidson the Third – the first person to appear on the coin.

And I’ll leave you with this thought: if the price of bread was to increase over the next 30 years the same way it did from ’83 to 2013, we could be paying £5.02 for a loaf in 2043.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MoneySuperMarkH

Back in 1983, £1 would have bought you about one-and-a-half pints of beer, or enough milk to see most families through the week. What fond memories do you have of the 1980s?  Let us know here.


Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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