While stressing that there are no immediate plans to scrap any denominations, the Treasury is calling for feedback on the issue as part of an investigation of cash and digital payments, outlined during the Spring Statement. When it costs more to produce and distribute a coin than the coin itself is worth, governments tend to decide it's a spent force - and we're rapidly heading in that direction for coppers.
Evidence points to the fact that 60 per ent of 1p and 2p coins are used in a transaction just once before they "leave the cash cycle" - either being saved in piggy banks or, in eight per cent of cases, thrown away.
At the other end of the denominational scale, the government says the £50 note is believed to be rarely used for routine purchases and is instead held as a store of value. The large red note also suffers from "a perception [that] £50 notes are used for money laundering, hidden economy activity and tax evasion", the Treasury said.
Having excess numbers of both types of cash "does not contribute to an efficient or cost effective cash cycle", the paper adds, also pointing to the need to keep "confidence in the currency". Debit card payments are forecast to overtake cash as the most frequently used payment method this year. Cash was used for 7.2 billion transactions of under £1 in 2006. Meanwhile, shops are using rounded pricing to save the bother of handling low-value coins, so even those who stick with cash have less use for coppers.
However, the Treasury said in its consultation that cash was not obsolete, an estimated 2.7 million people in the United Kingdom entirely reliant on it. "If not, how should it change?"