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Got Any Old Coins?

Posted: Sunday 1st July 2018 by Emyr MWT

British Pre-Decimalisation Coins Appeal

As you're probably aware by now, we're going to be building a new visitor centre at Cors Dyfi in 2019 to replace the 25-year-old porta-cabins that we have been using for the last 10 years.

We'll be launching an appeal next week, but we wanted to let you know first about our old coins appeal... we're interested in any denomination of British pre-decimalisation coins. Basically, any British coin between 1840 - 1967.


Why do we need coins?

We said in the announcement blog that the Dyfi Wildlife Centre will be no ordinary visitor centre - and we're going to keep that promise.

To keep the costs of the building down, we only have a budget for a no-frills approach to internal finishings. No fancy designer walls here and certainly no plastic-laminated panels (the entire centre will be a minimum-plastics build). The walls and floors will be mostly OSB boards (pulped wood boards) that we can either paint over, or using a bit of creativity, cover with something a bit more interesting.

OSB boards - cheap and strong, but just a tad on the boring side..

We have three projects in mind.

 

1. Penny Wall

Using different grades of age and dirtiness, we could design and build a penny wall, maybe at the reception just as you walk in. Just substitute Monty for Lincoln...

A Monty Mural, anyone...?


It's important that you don't clean any of the coins you may be able to donate to us, we'll need the baked-in crusty black ones for artistic effect!


2. Penny Floor

Likewise, as with the Monty Mural, we could partition off one floor segment of the visitor centre for a Penny Floor project.

Design themes could include significant dates, a profile of the Dyfi River itself, or even a huge osprey artwork like the Monty Mural but on the floor - a whole-nest family portrait perhaps? Let us know any suggestions you have.


Children get to work on a penny floor project in Detroit, US

3. Penny Table

So, you're just ordering your panini from Lowri in the new cafe and she asks you what table you're sitting at?

The Farthing Table perhaps? The Half-Crown Table... the Shilling Table?

Rather than buying expensive tables and chairs for the cafe - all made from new, we'll up-cycle old wooden tables and chairs and make a coin project with each table top. There will be a brief explanation on each table of that particular coin and, for the kids, spot the odd one (coin) out.

The circular tables are a bit more tricky...

 

If you google any of the above three ideas, there are plenty of videos of folks making these projects.

 

But Why Coins?


A key narrative running throughout the new Dyfi Wildlife Centre will be the Dyfi River. The way our ancestors lived on the Dyfi over the centuries and millennia has directly effected the landscapes, wildlife and species we see today - including the ospreys. Next time you're in the 360 Observatory, have a look around - all the way around - 360°.

Can you spot anything that would have looked roughly the same 1,000 years ago as it does now? How about 200 years ago?

The ditching works of the river banks in the 17th century to dry them out for agriculture, the forestry, the roads, the mining, the railway that splits Cors Dyfi in two and of course the trade & industry of the river going back millennia. All have had an effect in one way or another and given us what we have today - for better or for worse.

The largest employer during the second half of the 1800s in the Dyfi Valley was the Cambrian Railways company

People used what was around them to make a living, just to survive; the environmental implications of their actions were simply not on their agenda. Today we have to be more careful about the way we live our lives or we will destroy everything around us.

To make sense of the future we need to understand the past

As I write this blog on a scorching hot July Sunday afternoon in 2018, Telyn has just brought some vibrant-looking nesting material to the nest. It's what birds do.

Only this colourful addition is not natural - it's man-made. It's a plastic bag.

1st July, a Kingsmill loaf wrapper - medium slice

Bobby Bach is four weeks old today - his birthday present is a plastic bag that could kill him/her in seconds


We have to build the Dyfi Wildlife Centre in the most responsible, sustainable and environmentally caring way that's humanly possible. Over the next 18 months we'll talk about the various ways we'll do this, but just for now, let's just stick with the coins.

So, here are a few reasons why we would like to use old coins in the new centre:

Mining

The hills surrounding the Dyfi River have a rich history of mining - especially silver and copper. These metals were then transported down to where Cors Dyfi is today and the surrounding quays, loaded onto boats and ships before being transported around the UK, and later the world. As a reference to the past history of the reserve, we'd like to reference these metals in a thematic way in how we build some of the interiors.

Pre-decimal coins are mostly copper with a little silver, so they are perfect. We're also not taking (or making) any new materials out of the ground, which is important.

Ystrad Einion copper mine - one of many Victorian mines on the Dyfi

Recycling and Re-purposing

Metal is the king of recyclable materials. Molecules of the same gold stolen from Egyptian tombs three millennia ago or copper from the huge Colossus of Rhodes sculpture constructed in 292BC could well be in your wedding ring right now or in the components of the laptop, phone or computer you are reading this on. Those particles will have been recycled and repurposed into something, somewhere, sometime.

Colossus-of-Rhodes - eventually destroyed in an earthquake and the bronze recycled

The exact same is true of the copper in old coins. We'll recycle and re-purpose them and when the life of the building comes to an end, they'll be ready to be used again for something else.

Trade and Industry of the Dyfi River

The currency of trade is money of course, this is an easy one!

However, a little know fact is that Charles I moved the royal mint to Aberystwyth Castle in 1643, just down the road. A few years later he moved it closer still to a village we today call Furnace, just a few hundred metres away from us.

A silver Charles I Threepence 'hammered' in the Dyfi Furnace Mint in 1649

 

Wildlife

Many old coins have wildlife based engravings on them, some of these species breed and grow on Cors Dyfi reserve.

The thrift (plant) was the emblem on the reverse of the old 'thrupenny bit' from 1937 to 1953
An old half-penny with a link to the shipping heritage of the river and a farthing - worth one quarter of an old penny - so that's 1/960th of a pound!

 

Educational

We've been staggered by how much interest there has been in the coin projects already, and we haven't properly started yet. Kids are fascinated by old coins, their parents may have heard about them and their grandparents remember spending them!

The wholesale decimalisation of the British monetary system was a huge thing in the late 1960s, it even had its own name for the changeover on 15th February 1971: Decimal Day.

There were 240 old pennies in a pound sterling - your 12x table had to be spot on. Counting and dividing by 10 is much easier and something we take for granted today - for previous centuries it wasn't the case.

Know your new money - a public advice announcement back in the day

Visitors will learn about the history of the river, the trade, the mining, the metals and how important it is to reuse and recycle materials we use today. Old coins are able to connect all these elements together in a fun, joined-up narrative that is both interesting and educational.


Volunteering

It stimulates people to get out of the house on a cold winter afternoon and gets them involved in a project that's innovative, creative and fun. These projects are cheap to do but very time consuming - teamwork, creativity and patience will be essential!

Not everyone is physically able to take part in our winter-work parties on the reserve. Not everybody wants to do species protection and people engagement in the summer. These projects will be perfect for them.

We'll make videos of these projects and publish them on a new Dyfi Wildlife Centre YouTube channel.


You and the Appeal

If you live close enough you can volunteer of course and help us with the coin projects. We'll let you know nearer the time what we're doing and when we're doing them.

If you have any old coins laying around, we'd love to have them. You may live many miles away, but you'll always be able to say that there is a small part of you in the Dyfi Wildlife Centre, even if it's just one coin. We may not be able to tell you which one though!


Honesty Scheme

Most of these old pre-decimal coins are not really worth anything financially. However, if we inadvertently receive a coin (or coins) with any kind of monetary value, we will either return them immediately or give you the option of what you want us to do with them.

Some of the old Victorian silver coins for example, in good condition, may be worth a few pounds each. If we see any, we'll give you the decision what to do. Most copper (technically bronze which is ~95% copper) coins are not particularly valuable - unless you have a 1933 penny that is.

Don't send that!!

Got a jar full of these in your house somewhere?

How to donate your coins

So, remember, we are only after British pre-decimal coins, minted with the dates 1840 onwards to 1967. If you have any and would like to donate them, there are two main ways you can do so.

1. Bring them with you next time you or someone you know visit DOP.

2. Send them in the mail to:

Old Coin Appeal
Dyfi Osprey Project
Cors Dyfi Reserve
Derwenlas
Machynlleth
Powys
SY20 8SR


When?

We won't be starting on the coin projects until the winter of 2019/20, that's 18 months away. So there is no hurry with these.

We have volunteers with spare rooms and cupboards at the ready, waiting for the first coins to arrive!

In fact, we've got a few thousand coins already mainly from people on Chat that have been asking - thank you for these, it's a great start.

Please spread the word, we're so looking forward to doing these projects and getting everybody involved - the Monty Mural should be AMAZING.

Volunteer Jill takes home the first tub of old pennies to be sorted and graded

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