I was researching international trade on Wikipedia for a essay assignment when I went slightly off topic and landed on the article for Pounds Sterling. If you want to find out all about the history of sterling that’s where to look.
Anyway, this section on legal tender really surprised me. “When settling a restaurant bill after consuming the meal, or other debt the laws of legal tender do apply”
The article then goes on to give a maximum usable legal tender for each of the coins:
Coin Maximum usable as legal tender £5 (post-1990 crown) unlimited £2 unlimited £1 unlimited 50p £10 25p (pre-1990 crown) £10 20p £10 10p £5 5p £5 2p 20p 1p 20p
Now I’m not a lawyer but as I understand it, that means using eleven 2p coins at once (a total of 22p) is not legal tender (For US visitors the exchange rate is 1 british pence = 2 american cents).
Of course, we tend not to even bother using 1ps and 2ps these days: it is barely even worth collecting the obligatory pennys change from every transaction. But it is interesting that coins have a maximum legal tender.
It confuses me why the US keeps using dollar bills: the smallest value note used in the UK is worth £5 (10 US dollars). And even the £5 note isn’t dispensed by cash machines any more and is rarely used. Perhaps it’s time we switched to using a £5 coin and scraped the 1p and the 2p. Or the Monster Raving Loony Party suggested the 99p coin as a way to get around the problem of penny changes.