Skip to main content

‘Most secure coin in world’ launched

 (Images courtesy British Royal Mint)

(Images courtesy British Royal Mint)

Is it really “the most secure circulating coin in the world,” as British Royal Mint Master Adam Lawrence called the recently innovated British 12-sided £1 coin?

We should learn if it truly is very soon. Introduced into circulation during late March, the new £1 coin is anticipated to circulate side-by-side with the so-called “round pound,” its predecessor that was first introduced in 1983. The earlier £1 coin replaced the bank note of the same denomination. Studies have indicated that a coin is less expensive to produce due to the amount of time the coin will be able to remain in circulation as compared to the circulation life of an average bank note.

The soon-to-be-defunct round £1 coins will be officially withdrawn from circulation on Oct. 15. After that time, the round coins can only be redeemed at banks.

The reason for the switch to a 12-sided coin is the counterfeiting threat. It has been estimated that there may be as many as 45 million fakes in circulation, representing about one in 30 coins. As many as perhaps 30 million of these fakes were allegedly produced by Amsterdam (Netherlands) coin counterfeiter Patrick Onel over a seven-year period.

An unrelated counterfeiting ring in Italy failed in a separate attempt to import yet more fake £1 coins to Great Britain.

Chris Barker, British Royal Mint Museum assistant curator, said, “We’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it in terms of security features,” adding, “[Sir Isaac] Newton’s legacy at the mint was creating a better-designed coin in terms of physical design. The more intricate it is, the harder it is to replicate.”

Newton served as first warden and then later as master of the Royal Mint beginning in 1696. During his tenure, Newton applied science and art, with an emphasis on weight and diameter consistency to improve coinage security to prevent counterfeiting.

The new 12-sided coin is a ringed bimetal piece that incorporates a hologram, fine lettering and security features that have not been made public. The coin has an additive encased in the nickel-plated center plug that BRM team leader Dean Searle calls “pixie dust” as another counterfeit detection measure.

While some collectors have been reportedly paying large sums for Brilliant Uncirculated examples of the 2017 coins, it is the 2015 trial coins and the 2016 official fakes that are commanding large premiums. A 2015 example was being offered for £310 on eBay at the time this article was being written. In a March 28 The Sun newspaper article, it was explained that about 200,000 official 2016 official fakes had been made available to merchants and the vending machine industry. These official fakes were also selling for a large premium.

The 2015 example viewed when writing this article was marked “Trial Piece” at the 6 o’clock position on the reverse.

Merchants, bankers and vending machine operators were reporting problems with the new coins soon after their official release. The London Underground system was reported to have invested about £250,000 (about US$315,000) to upgrade more than 1,000 ticket machines. The British Parking Association estimated it would cost about £50 million or about US$63 million to convert its members’ vending machines to accept the new coins.

Kelvin Reynolds, BPA director of policy and public affairs, told CNN News on March 27, “There is a possibility that the new £1 coin may encourage a move towards cashless payments, however there is evidence to suggest that significant numbers of users do not trust new technology such as phone apps.”

Let’s see just how many counterfeits are detected and how soon they may appear.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.

• Is that coin in your hand the real deal or a clever fake? Discover the difference with U.S. Coins Close Up, a one-of-a-kind visual guide to every U.S. coin type.