I just picked up a 20p piece. Off the pavement (sidewalk to my thousands of US readers :-)). Which got me to thinking – what is the smallest denomination coin that I would risk my increasingly dodgy knees to stop and pick up? 1p? Nah. A pound coin? Certainly. I think 20p is my tipping point. With some reluctance though. There’s really nothing wrong with a 10p or even a 5p. It’s just that there’s a pay-off between looking a bit of a mean twat plus the physical effort involved and the rewards for so doing.
And also remember that these are the streets of Jersey, Channel Islands. I guess if I was a street rat in Calcutta my conclusion would be somewhat different. And if I was a 1(1)(k) – wealthy immigrant in Jerseyspeak – then likewise I might ignore any coin or note of the realm as beneath my dignity.
But you can do a lot with 20p. And I would never actually consider it to be 20p; it’s four shillings in old money, written 4/-. And 4/- used to get you a hell of a lot in my day. For example, the boys’ entrance fee to the terraces of St Andrew’s, home of Birmingham City, was 6d. So 4/- would get you eight matches. This was while I still considered it was a Good Thing to pay to go in and watch the Blues, well before I learnt it was a form of self-torture which rarely leaves you feeling good.
With 4/- you were a millionaire. On a Saturday morning you could go into the matinee at the Sheldon Cinema, buy frozen Jubblys to suck the juice out of before lobbing the remaining ice block at the kids’ heads in front, buy more sweeties to go home and still have change from 1/6d.
Later in life the 20p easily covered my first ever two pints of brown and mild. Exciting that was, following a couple of more worldly wise schoolmates up the stairs into the top bar of The Windsor in Birmingham’s city centre. Never mind we were all wearing our school blazers. We were welcome with the rest of the rather dodgy clientele as long as we paid our way.
Even now 20p is nothing to be sniffed at. A couple of them plus a 10p buys you the Jersey Evening Post, a bargain. A pint comes to £3.20? No bother – your silvery friend makes up the price and saves the lovely barmaid having to calculate your change. A busker in the precinct is your friend for life. And who doesn’t feel virtuous in feeding a 20p into the poor box on the counter?
So, be honest, what’s the lowest denomination coin you’d ignore?