The value of a threepence – in this case we are talking about the 12-sided, brass ‘thrupenny bit’ that was produced during the 20th century – varies depending upon the year it was minted, and the rarity of that year’s issue.
Therefore, it can be anywhere between a few pence and quite large amounts of money. To get a better picture, it is essential to look back briefly at the history of the three pence coin in the UK.
The First Threepence
To the younger reader, the idea of a coin worth three pence may seem rather odd. This is a result of the decimal system, introduced in 1971 to replace the old Imperial coinage that went before. Prior to decimalisation, one pound sterling consisted of 240 pennies, or 20 shillings. Thus, three pence was a logical denomination for a coin of low value.
Indeed, the very first threepence coin appeared in 1547, during the reign of King Edward V1. These were fine silver coins, and set the standard for threepence coins to come. Although falling out of use at various points during history, the threepence coin proved resilient and subject to revival, with the silver threepence being minted right through until the middle of the 20th century, and some of these being very rare indeed.
A few examples:
- Threepence coins minted at Bristol and Exeter in the years 1644 and 1645 are very rare, and very collectable.
- Those produced during the reign of King Charles II are also considered collectable – if not particular rare – this being a much written-about era in British history.
- Threepence coins dated 1817 to 1820 are sought after; this is because by this point they were used primarily as ceremonial ‘Maundy Money’ and remain scarce and in fine condition.
- Threepence coins featuring the head of King Edward VIII are, as with all things to with the king who would abdicate, also favoured by collectors.
By the end of George V’s reign, in 1936, the traditional silver threepence had fallen out of favour in England, and as Edward VIII looked to take the throne, a new threepenny bit was in the offing, this being the 12-sided, brass coin that would remain in circulation until 1971, when it ceased to be legal tender. However, for collector’s of English coins, it is perhaps the 1937 threepence that is among the most interesting of all coins.
The Edward VIII Threepence Coin
As history relates, Edward VIII announced he was not to take up the role of King in 1937, but as we have seen, threepence coins with his image, name and the year 1937 had already been planned. It is known that a mere 12 of these coins were struck before the abdication was announced. Being a new shape and design – and weight and metal too – they were sent with approval to a slot machine manufacturing company, as the coins would need to be tested for use in such machines which were, by then, becoming very popular.
Of the 12 coins struck and sent, it is currently – in 2020 – known where six of them are, and they are highly prized among coin collectors. The remaining six remain unaccounted for. These remain among the most mythical, desired and sought after coins in the history of English coinage. One of the ‘known’ six sold for £30,000 not long ago, and should any of the other six resurface, they would easily fetch a similar amount.
For examples of values from this era, here’s a few pointers:
- 1946 and 1949 years are rare, and you can expect very good examples of these to fetch more than £500
- While not as rare as the above, collectors also look for the years 1948, 1950 and 1951, which can sell for as much as £80 to £100 in mint condition.
Queen Elizabeth II Threepence
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II – from 1952 to the present day – the 12-sided threepence continued to be minted and used in large numbers, yet there are few from this era that are worth great amounts of money. Mint examples from any year up to 1967 – the last year in which they were minted – can fetch a few pounds but do not come anywhere close to the values of those mentioned above. Perhaps the more collectable are those from 1970, during which the threepence coin was produced only in proof sets for collectors.
With the advent of decimalisation, the threepence – or thrupenny bit as it became known in many quarters – was no longer necessary or indeed particularly usable, it being impossible to divide into the modern currency. It discontinued in 1971, when it was removed from circulation and was no longer considered legal tender.
However, this was not the end of the story for the threepence coin.
2019 Royal Mint Sale and the New Pound Coin
In 2014, the Royal Mint surprised everyone by announcing the that new £1 coin would reprise the 12-sided shape of the threepence, it being harder to counterfeit. The new coin came into circulation in 2017.
In late 2019, the Royal Mint announced that it would be putting on sale 120,000 of the silver threepences that preceded the latter design, in an exercise designed to get more people involved in collecting coins. The sale, overseen by the mint itself, involved coins from the reign of George V, and had a value of more than £1million.
The novelty shape of the later threepence coin means it is one that has been kept by those who remember it, so if you have any in a drawer doing nothing, it might be worth checking their value!