May 28, 2003
Precious Cupro-Nickel

A statistical epilogue to my last entry.

My theory is that there is at least one discarded 5p coin for every hundred square metres of pavement, gutter, train station platform, shopping centre in the country. So - I wonder how much is out there?

The Office of National Statistics says that there are 23.5 million hectares of land in Great Britian - of which around 1.8 million hectares are developed urban land.

Now assuming that 1% of developed urban land is public human thoroughfare - e.g. street-side pavements, bus stops, train stations, platforms, concourses, shopping precincts etc. then there are approximately 180,000 hectares of land where 5p coins could be accidentally dropped or deliberately discarded.

Given that one hectare = 10,000 square metres - If my theory is correct - there are 1.8 million “units” of 100 sq metres in the country. Which means that there are 1.8 million 5p coins lying around up and down the length and breadth of our beloved nation. (A quick sanity-check against the Royal Mint statistics for cupro-nickel coin circulation shows that there are around 4.7 billion 5p coins in circulation - so 1.8 million is around 4 tenths of a percent of the total 5ps in circulation - so it is not far-fetched or inconcievable that one in every 2500 5p coins is accidentally dropped or deliberately thrown away.)

That’s around £90,000 - just lying around waiting to be picked up.
That would pay for my bus journey home for the next 612 years.

Money, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Posted by jag at May 28, 2003 11:47 AM

Wow. But how long would it take to go and collect all those 1.8m coins? And how much would that work out, per hour?

Posted by: Stu on May 30, 2003 10:28 PM

Interesting questions.

How long? Well - it would depend how many people were involved in the exercise I suppose. If we examine the extreme boundary points - then at one extreme - if you had 1.8M people to conduct the exercise - then if my theory is correct, tnen it would take less than 10 minutes to acheive. However, at the other extreme if it had to be accomplished by just one person - then I calculate the following:

  • Assume human walking speed is 6km per hour.
  • Assume total hours human can walk in a day is 10 hours.
  • Assume field-width of human eye floor scan is 1m.
  • Assume that all of UK area where 5p coins can be found is concentrated in 10 metropolitan areas: London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol, Nottingham, Leicester
  • Assume that the travel between these urban conglomerations is made using train and public transport - outside walking time.

Total distance can cover in a day is therefore 60km. This will allow for a coin-can area of 60,000 sqare metres. Which is therefore 600 coin pickups. To cover all 180,000 hectares of land in the 10 metro areas would take (1.8 exp 9)/60000 = 30,000 days.

Now - if you assume that this is accomplished as if it were a job - i.e. the person takes holidys, weekends off and bank holidays etc. then you assume 210 working days in a year - which means that he whole exercise of collecting £90,000 will take 143 years.

If you work weekends and bank holidays and don’t take any other hols - then you could do it 82 years.

So you can see that at this extreme it’s not very practical for one person to be doing it - probably better for three people to do it (to allow for a sensible retirement period) - in which case it will take a third the time i.e. 47 years each.

Now moving on to the second question “how much per hour?”

Again - calculating this at both extremes:

If 1.8m people did this pickup exercise all together - then it would take 10 minutes - but each person will have earned 5p in that ten minutes. Which is a “notional” earning power of 30p per hour. (But a maximum earning limit of just 5p)

If, however, three people teamed up to achieve the task over a 47 year period. Then it would still be 30p an hour for earning power - but the maximum earning limit is now £30,000.

Two conclusions can be drawn from this:

1. This would not be a very efficient primary occupation.
2. The actual net result would be worse due to the above calculations not taking into account income tax and national insurance contributions.

Best regards - Jag

Posted by: Jag on May 31, 2003 10:04 AM

Very thorough answers Jag. Frighteningly thorough! 30 pence an hour, eh? I don’t think I’ll guve up my day job just yet then. The thought of someone actually doing the job reminds me a little of a Paul Auster’s novel ‘The Music of Chance’ (also a film:, in which two men take the unusual job of builing a wall - stone by stone - to pay off their gambling debts to a pair of eccentric millionaires.

Posted by: Stu on June 1, 2003 01:40 AM


Must admit - haven’t read the Paul Auster novel - but I’m going to check if the DVD rental service I use( carrying the film. Sounds like a whacky story! (IMDB comments claim that the film is a an exact translation of the novel.)

Best regards - Jag

Posted by: Jag on June 1, 2003 10:58 AM

Yes, the film is faithful to the novel pretty much word for word (at lest, from what I can remember), and features an excellent performance from James Spader.

Posted by: Stu on June 1, 2003 08:14 PM

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