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U.K.'s round pound demonetized?

 Britain's new 12-sided ringed bimetallic £1 coin with a holographic device and micro-text imbedded into part of the design.

Britain's new 12-sided ringed bimetallic £1 coin with a holographic device and micro-text imbedded into part of the design.

The United Kingdom has a new £1coin. The “round pound” or “Maggie” has been demonetized – or has it?

Officially, Oct. 15 was the last day on which the coin, first introduced in 1983, was to be accepted as legal tender. Its replacement is a 12-sided ringed bimetal £1coin with a holographic device and micro-text imbedded into part of the design. The newer coin is 2.8 millimeters thick as compared to its soon-to-be defunct 3.15mm-thick predecessor.

Queen Elizabeth II appears on the obverse of the new coin, depicted in her fifth portrait rendering since her coinage began. The current design is by Jody Clark. The same design has also appeared on the outgoing £1coin. The reverse, designed by 15-year-old David Pearce, depicts a leek, thistle and clover surrounded by a royal crown. The coin was introduced on March 27, circulating alongside the older £1.

The transition between the two versions of the denomination should have gone smoothly – should have. Treasury statistics indicate that the older coin was being redeemed at a rate of 60 million per week.

The British Parking Association said it would cost perhaps as high as £50 million (about US$66.5 million) to replace or convert ticket machines. The BPA also reported “thousands” of machines would not be ready to accept the new coins by the Oct. 15 deadline.

The Daily Mail newspaper for Oct. 13 reported that “... shops are refusing to take the old £1 coin despite it being legal tender until Sunday. Our exclusive investigation has revealed parking meters, tube stations and pay phones in London did not accept the coin. And there could be mayhem as people hit the shops this weekend, after we found high street retailer H&M [a clothing store] is routinely telling customers that the old coin is “illegal” some three days ahead of the cut-off date.”

The confusion appears to be going in both directions. According to the Oct. 11 edition of the newspaper The Guardian, “The discount supermarket chain Aldi is to accept the old £1 coins in its U.K. stores for two weeks after they cease to be legal tender.”

The U.K.’s largest retailer, Tesco, said earlier during the week that it would “allow its shoppers to pay with the round pound coins at tills and self-service machines for an extra week in apparent defiance of the 15 October deadline the Royal Mint has imposed. It follows a similar announcement by the discount retailer Poundland, which will accept round pounds until 31 October.”

An Aldi spokesman said, “We’ve been ready to accept the new £1 coins since they first came into circulation in March. To make the transition as easy as possible for our customers, we will continue to accept the old £1 coins as payment across our stores until 31 October.”

It was reported as early as Oct. 9 that self-service checkouts at Lidl stores were no longer accepting the round pound. A Lidl spokesman said, “Those self service checkouts that have updated early, and now only accept the new £1 coin, are clearly sign posted in store to make our customers aware.”

Other sources indicated that banks including HSBC, Barclays, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Lloyds/Bank of Scotland were willing to continue to exchange the older version of the coin for another after the Oct. 15 deadline, but only for their own clients.

Post offices were supposed to continue to accept the round pound. The coins could be deposited into bank accounts in this way. It has also been suggested that the coins should be donated to charities, but no explanation of what the charities will do with them had been offered.

While about 1.2 billion round £1 coins had been withdrawn by the week prior to the changeover, it was estimated that about 500 million more were still outstanding. Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman Mike Cherry criticized the short transition period as being the problem.

Labor Member of Parliament (Warley, Black Country) John Spellar said of the government’s efforts, “They should extend the deadline,” adding, “It would be sensible for the banks and the government to take the coins out of circulation as they come into their possession. But the government should also make sure people who still have these coins are not out of pocket. I don’t think people were aware just how short a time they had to spend or deposit the old pound coins.”

The new coin is being introduced due to rampant counterfeiting of the older version. Only time will tell if counterfeiters can master how to make this newer coin as well.

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

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

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