What could you buy for a pound coin in 1983?

Pound coins, 1983
Pound coins, 1983

On 21 April 1983 Great Britain got a new one pound coin. It was the first time that the pound had been represented by a coin since the start of the First World War. Then it was a gold sovereign. The 1983 version was made from a gold-coloured alloy of copper, zinc and brass. It was just the right size and weight to roll out of your trouser pocket when you sat down. I'd never needed a purse until then! There were some clever solutions to this problem, such as the innovative Pop Coin.

The pound coin was not universally liked. Some people refused to accept them as change and demanded a pound note instead. Melanie Burgess from Aberystwyth wrote to the 'Daily Mirror' asking people to boycott the pound coin. I remember some of the older generation refusing the pound coin. But it was to no avail. The Bank of England withdrew the £1 note in 1988.

Before 1983 people talked about the shrinking pound. Inflation was whittling away at its buying power. Each new pound note was smaller than the previous one. With the pound coin, the pound became small change. In 1984 Peter Brookes drew a sketch for The Times showing the back of a pound note with Sir Isaac Newton at the wrong end of a long queue for the Job Centre. [1]

But how much was the pound worth in 1983?

In 1983 one pound would be worth about £2.60 in today's money (as of 2021). So what would it buy?

A gallon of petrol?

No. Petrol had already crashed through the £1 per gallon in the 1970s. In 1983 a gallon cost £1.60.

A packet of cigarettes?

Yes. You could get a packet of twenty John Player King Size, Extra Mild for £1 in 1983.

A pint of beer

Yes. Beer had yet to pass the psychological pound per pint mark. A pint of bitter was 67p in 1983.

Post a parcel?

Yes. It cost 16p to send a letter first class in 1983. You could send a 750g parcel second class for 95p.

Food

You could still get quite a bit at the supermarket for £1. Or 99p to be more precise:

DIY

DIY was booming in the 1980s and you could still get quite a bit for your 99p.

Other goods

This is a selection of other items that a newly-minted one pound coin could buy in 1983

References

[1] 'Promises to Pay - The first three hundred years of Bank of England Notes' by Derrick Byatt, published by Spink (1994) , page 202

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By Steven Braggs, March 2021

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