In the UK alone, there are approximately 30 billion coins in circulation. As of March 28th, the old £1 coin we’ve come to know and love will be replaced by a new £1 coin which has been specifically designed to reduce the number of forgeries.
But if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it! – why do we need a new £1 coin?
The Royal Mint estimates that 2.5% of £1 coins flowing around the economy today are fakes. The new £1 coin, which features 12 sides, has security features which are impossible to replicate.
Speaking to WIRED, Gordon Summers, Chief Engraver at the Royal Mint, commented “In 30 years of minting – and 20 years of mine – there has probably not been any significant change in the way we secure coins. This is a big leap for us!”
So how does the new £1 coin differ from its predecessor?
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way – it has 12 sides. On the ‘tails’ side of the coin, the four emblems of the countries in the United Kingdom are engraved – a rose for England, a leek for Wales, a thistle for Scotland and a shamrock for Northern Ireland. Each of the aforementioned four logos emerge from a crown in the centre of the coin. This design was created by 15-year-old David Pearce, who won a competition to feature his design on the new £1 coin.
But wait, there’s more…
The new £1 coin features a widely discussed, top secret “high security feature”, something which Summers is adamant to keep quiet about, but merely states, “It’s something you need a machine to detect.” This top secret high security feature is only being used on coins by the Royal Mint, however Gordon claims this technology has been used before on bank notes. He adds, “It is currently impossible for those counterfeiting coins to copy – it’s not difficult to do, it’s impossible.”
The difficulty in replicating the new £1 coin comes from its design and weight. There are two different metallic parts to the coin, much like the £2 coin. The coin’s 12 sides also make it instantly recognisable by touch. Other factors include a sterling symbol which, when seen from different angles, changes into a number one, much like a hologram. Tiny lettering is printed around the edges of the coin, which can only be created by an extremely advanced laser system, of which there are only a small amount available, selling for approximately £500,000.
Gordon comments, “This machine allows us to cut very fine details in a crisp way, which is something we couldn’t do with our old engraving machines. Up until Christmas, we were the only people in the world with this type of laser.”
Upon the new £1 coin’s launch, 300 million new pound coins are expected to be introduced into the UK economy, the rest of the 1.5 billion will be released over a period of time. The last date which the old pound coin will be legal tender is October 15th, 2017.