Back in June 2020, I wrote a post explaining that my new job was going to be as a coin collector. More specifically, someone who posts YouTube videos of themselves sorting through large bank bags of coins. A CoinTuber, if you will. Well, that didn’t quite work out quite as I planned. And, as of the end of September, it is no longer even an option…
I think a quick recap of why I wanted to become a CoinTuber might be in order. Back in early 2020 I was utterly confident that I was in the ideal place to settle into a good, solid period of writing. The idea of coin collecting was for it be a buffer between writing and sleeping. My plan was to search through a large bank bag of coins each night before I went to bed. Sorting through coins is a simple, repetitive process that would calm my mind and allow me to get to sleep more easily. For one of my ideas, this one actually had a lot of merit!
The main obstacle to overcome was that banks don’t let you take out enough coins from a personal account to meet my goals. Which meant that I needed a business account. So, I set myself up as a sole trader under the name Chubby Coins. And the ways that I intended to generate income through Chubby Coins were:
- Ad revenue through YouTube, from my CoinTuber videos
- Selling any spare rare and collectable coins on eBay
- Developing and selling merchandise of things like the Sorting and Collecting Mats that I’d be using in the videos
To be clear, Chubby Coins was only ever supposed to be a part time endeavour. I was just planning to generate enough income to offset the bank charges for taking out and depositing so many coins each week. These charges would be around £200 a month, based on the number of coins I wanted to search through. And, given that my starting capital was just £3,000, I had to generate an income, or it would be gone within months.
Fortunately, the business account I set up with Nat West came with an 18-month free banking period. That gave me a year and a half to get my Chubby Coins CoinTuber channel to a place where it was bringing in Ad revenue. It also gave me plenty of time to build up a stockpile of rare coins to sell on eBay.
Unfortunately, early 2020 also saw the start of two other things:
- The Coronavirus Pandemic
- The fourth recurrence of my bowel cancer
Either one of these things would have made my plan to become a CoinTuber incredibly difficult. Together, they blew the concept right out of the water!
The initial Lockdown of 2020 meant that I couldn’t get any coins from the bank until December. Well, I suppose technically I could have. After all, Chubby Coins was a business and being a CoinTuber was my trade. Oddly enough, however, I concluded that it would have been incredibly selfish of me to put people’s health at risk just so I could sort through some coins.
But in December the lockdown rules relaxed and I could finally take out some coins. And for a couple of weeks, things were going great guns. Then the second wave hit! This meant that, after December, I couldn’t draw any more coins out until May of this year. Time on my free banking was definitely running out…
Therefore, when May arrived, I started out drawing coins with a vengeance!
I figured that I still had five months of free banking left. So, if I started making videos immediately, I might still be able to build a YouTube channel quickly enough. Either way, because I’d opened a Business Account, I had to try to make the business work. Fortunately, Emma had become interested in looking though the coins as well. This had the potential to make the videos considerably more interesting. At least it wouldn’t just be me talking to the camera about coins. Now it was Emma and me talking about coins in front of the camera. Far better!
And by “in front of the camera”, I just mean our hands. The camera was set up to look directly down at the Sorting Mat. All it would record was our hands searching through the coins and then adding the collectables to their relevant places on the Mat. And it was these Sorting and Collecting Mats that were to help set the Chubby Coins CoinTuber channel apart. Well, that and all the beautiful statistics, which I’ll get on to shortly.
You see, very few of the other CoinTuber channels used mats in their videos. They just put their coins in piles on the table, or the carpet or on a towel. This very much seemed like a gap in the market that I could fill. As such, for each of the collectable UK circulating coin types (£2, 50p and 10p), I designed an A3 Collecting Mat. Each Mat included an image of every collectable coin of that denomination that could be found in circulation, as well as space for error coins and coins from other territories. Around each image was also information about the mintage figures for the coin and whether it would sell on eBay for more than its face value.
Given that I did them in Excel, I thought these Mats were pretty good. Of course, if the Mats ever took off as merchandise, I would redo them in something more appropriate than Excel. And I would have to redesign them, because the images I was using on the Mats were taken from the Royal Mint website. And while I was confident that I could use Royal Mint images on YouTube videos, I knew it would stop there. I highly doubted that the Royal Mint would allow me to freely use their images on my merchandise.
But YouTube videos would be fine. Other CoinTubers were already using Royal Mint images in their videos, which meant that I could too. All I needed was permission…
Initially that was impossible because the Royal Mint had not yet reopened from Lockdown. Even so, I sent an email to what I hoped was the right address on the Royal Mint’s Copyright and re-use of materials page. It might not have been the right address, because I never heard back. Either that or I sent it before the relevant person was back from furlough and they, quite rightly, just deleted all the emails that had arrived before that date…
Anyway, at this stage I was still focussed on the part of the terms and conditions that stated:
Please note that all requests to use licensed coin images should receive written permission from The Royal Mint.
I was trying to find someone to give me that written permission. I was worried that I could get a copyright strike on YouTube without it. As such, I sent another email asking for this specific permission and was, instead, told that I could just use the Royal Mint’s images providing I was sensible. It seems that the part of the terms and conditions that I should have been looking at were these:
Permission is granted, so long as the use of photography is in good taste and used in a positive context. All photography should be credited to The Royal Mint (The Royal Mint, date issued) which should be displayed below the image or at the bottom of the image.
I got this email on 14th July. Which means that I still had 10 weeks left of my free business banking…
And I’d already recorded the first four videos, they just needed editing…
Surely that was still enough time to build a successful CoinTuber channel?! Surely it was still worth a go?!
In truth, and being realistic, almost certainly not. Successful YouTube channels typically take far longer to build. Even so, it wasn’t technically impossible to build a successful CoinTuber channel in that time.
Not that we’ll ever find out…
Because it was around this time that the depression from the way my fourth recurrence was dragging on really got hold of me. There was no way I was able to be bright and bubbly to camera while searching through coins. Which meant that any CoinTuber videos that I did post, simply wouldn’t be watched. And thus ended the viability of Chubby Coins as a business venture.
And with the end the free banking came the end of my ability to afford to take out a meaningly volume of coins. Meaning, also, that I no longer had coin collecting as an option to act as that circuit breaker between writing and sleeping. Not that this should be much of an issue, as I’m sure that plenty of other suitable distractions exist…
Providing that I’ve finished my coin collections…
But I haven’t finished my coin collections!
And knowing that I haven’t finished what I started just makes me twitchy.
And I even managed to be sensible about it, too. For example, I very quickly stopped trying to make a collection of the commemorative 10p coins. This was because, after checking 6,000 10p coins, I found exactly one that was commemorative: a 2018 C for Cricket:
A hit rate of 1 in 6,000 was not enough to be a distraction. It was simply frustrating. Not the sort of thing that helps you to sleep.
I stuck with the £2 and 50p coins, though, and was still searching through those, right up to when Emma went back to university in the middle of September. All of which brings me to the beautiful statistics that I promised you earlier…
My plan was to look through the different coin types in batches of 1,000. And because I wanted to provide meaningful statistical analyses of how often you can expect to find any given coin, for the first 2,000 of each coin, I date checked all of them. This allowed me to build nice little piles of every coin design, in date order, so I could work out how many coins you would have to look through to find any given one. It was an oddly soothing process!
It should come as no surprise to learn that the coins with the definitive designs heavily outnumbered those with commemorative designs. Definitive designs being the normal, non-commemorative coins. For £2 coins, this was the concentric circles of the ‘Technologies’ design from 1997 to 2015, when it changed to the current ‘Brittania‘ design. 50p coins had a ‘Britannia’ design from 1997, and 10p coins an ‘Ironside’ (crowned lion) from 1992, until 2008 when they both switched to the current ‘Shield’ design.
You know about the Shield design on the current set of coins, right…?
I mean, you do know that the UK coinage forms a shield?!
You don’t do you…!
Anyway, by adding up all the coins by their various years and designs, I discovered the following:
- With £2 coins:
- 9 coins out of 10 is a Technology,
- every 6th coin you look at will be a 1998 Technology
- every 7th coin you look at will be a 2015 Technology
- 1 coin in 10 is a commemorative coin (This including the Britannias, which are so rare as to make them collectable)
- 9 coins out of 10 is a Technology,
- For 50p coins:
- nearly 2 out of every 3 coins is a Britannia
- and 1 out of every 3 coins is a 1997 Britannia!
- nearly 1 out of 3 coins is a Shield
- with 1 in 10 coins being a 2019 Shield
- meaning only 1 in 28 coins have a commemorative design
- nearly 2 out of every 3 coins is a Britannia
- And in 10p coins
- just under 1 in 3 coins is an Ironside
- with every 6th coin being a 1992 Ironside
- more than 2 in 3 coins is a Shield
- again with 1 in 6 being a 2013 Shield
- and 1 in 4 (24.39%) being a 2014 Shield
- which is why commemorative 10p coins are so damn hard to find!
- just under 1 in 3 coins is an Ironside
These hit rates for commemorative coins actually fits quite nicely with the way the coins are bagged. Because, and by a happy coincidence £2 coins come in bags of 10 and 50p coins come in bags of 20. This means that, very roughly speaking, when you’re searching through bags of £2 and 50p coins, you can expect to average about 1 commemorative coin per bag.
When I collected these coin bags from the bank, they came in large plastic bags containing 25 of the smaller coin bags. And, on average, I used to get £1,000 of £2 coins (500 coins in total) and £1,000 of 50p coins (2,000 coins in total) each week.
In total, I searched through:
- 6,000 10p coins
- 16,750* £2 coins
- 28,500* 50p coins
* The reason these aren’t multiples of 1,000 is that I’d sometimes get entire bags of one type of commemorative coin. This happens when the Royal Mint is releasing more coins into circulation. Sure, the coins are nice and shiny, but there’s not much point in searching through them…
Despite all those coins searched, I still didn’t complete my £2 and 50p collections. If you compare the total mintage figures for each coin against the mintage figures for any given coin, I should have found all the coins quite easily.
The rarest 50p coin is Kew Gardens, of which only 210,000 were ever minted. In total, 1,291,383,113 50p coins have been minted. If you divide the Kew coins into the total, you find that Kew Gardens should turn up with every 6,149 coins you search. Which means that I should have found four by now. The problem is that because the Kew coin is so rare, geeks like me keep collecting it and taking it out of circulation…
And then selling it on eBay.
Did you know that circulated Kew Gardens 50p coins go for around £150 on eBay?
Maybe it’s worth checking your loose change…
Not only did I not find a Kew Gardens, I also missed out on some of the 2011 ‘Olympics’ 50p coins. Specifically: Basketball, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting and Weightlifting. These aren’t nearly as rare as the Kew Gardens coin but all have mintage figures of less than 2,000,000 and are very collectible. In fact, there’s a sign up in the Royal Mint Experience Museum explaining that an estimated 70% of all Olympic 50p coins have been collected out of circulation.
Which means, in total, I’m missing just 6 out of the 69 circulating commemorative 50p coins.
Frustrating, I think you’ll agree.
But that’s nothing compared to the £2 coins, where I’m only missing one!
And it’s not even the coin with the lowest mintage… There are 6 other £2 coins with lower mintage figures than the one that I’m missing, and I have all those. In fact, for one of these other coins, the WWI Navy Centenary, I’ve found more than 40, including a couple with the Flag Error…
So why couldn’t I find the 2012 Olympic Games Handover £2 coin?
According to the mintage figures, I should have been finding one of those every 660 coins. Yet after painstakingly searching through more than 16,000 coins, not a sausage.
It seems likely to me that there are regional variations in how new coins are added into circulation. I imagine there is someone, somewhere else in the country, bemoaning the lack of WWI Navy coins, yet unable to move for Rio Handover coins.
The trick, of course, is to find that person.
Because, while Chubby Coins must come to an end, my efforts to complete the collection need not. And a time-honoured tradition in collecting is ‘swapsies’. Swapping my spares with someone else’s spares, so we both end up filling the gaps in our respective collections. And I have plenty of rare coins that would be good for swapping, I just need to find a reputable site on which to do so.
And then, when Emma gets back from Uni for Christmas, it’s a swapping we shall go.
Anything that’s left over after we’ve swapped what we can, will be sold on eBay. And this should raise enough funds to be able to take out a few more sacks of 50p coins from the bank. Enough to have another crack at finding a Kew Gardens, because you can be damn sure that nobody’s going to be swapping that!
Oh, and I still have the recordings of those first few coin searches to camera. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll upload them…