On this day (12 November) in 1984 the BBC reported that the English pound note was to disappear after more than 150 years.

News of the familiar green £1 note’s withdrawal had just been announced by the then Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, when he made his autumn statement in parliament.

Mr Lawson said the note – popularly known as a “quid” – would be phased out and replaced by coins which were introduced the previous April.

Speaking in parliament the previous December, Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher had told MPs the pound coin was “not very popular” and she believed the pound note would be retained.

It was not as if the £1 note itself had been very popular as it was greeted with public outrage when it was first put into widespread use as an emergency measure to replace gold sovereigns during World War I.

Despite general misgivings the new pound coin was welcomed by some groups such as blind people because it is easy to distinguish. It has also found favour among makers of ticket and vending machines.

Announcing the notes’ withdrawal Chancellor Nigel Lawson told MPs that coins were slightly more expensive to produce but would last up to 50 times longer.

He said the Bank of England would stop issuing pound notes at the end of 1984 but they would continue to be legal tender until the end of 1985.

The wider use of the largest denominator of coin in England is to be balanced by the withdrawal of the smallest – the half penny ceased to be legal tender from the end of 1984.

The replacement of the pound note reflected a growing trend worldwide to phase out smaller denomination paper money.

However, in the US the $1 bill had survived an attempt in the 1970s to replace it with a coin. Americans were resistant to giving up their beloved “greenbacks“.

The US authorities did not try again until 2000, when a $1 coin was again introduced, this time to be used in tandem with the bill.

As an ever increasing number of the goods and services we purchase are being paid for digitally how long will the pound coin remain in circulation?

Source: BBC Archive