As if the new plastic banknote wasn’t exciting enough the Royal Mint has introduced a new 12-sided pound coin into circulation. According to the Treasury will be “the most secure coin in the world”.
This is the first time the pound coin has been changed since 1983, but according to the government it is worth the cost. Although the current rate of counterfeiting is not alarmingly high, the integrity of a currency and the confidence with which it is used are enough reason to spend the millions required to assure its unforgeability. Plans by the Royal Mint and Her Majesty’s Treasury for this change have been ongoing since March 2014, when the announcement was made.
The coin entered circulation on the 28th March 2017, so you may well be in possession of one by now. Considering the main reason for the change was to decrease the number of fake pound coins, which is reportedly one in thirty, the lightness of the coin may have you doubting its effectiveness.
There have been numerous complications caused by this change. After 15 October deadline for old coins, no coin-operated machines will work; all vending machines, parking meters and the like must be upgraded in order to work after 15 October. Tesco actually missed the termination date of the old pound coins so had to unlock all of their trolleys. amusement arcade owner Adam Williams had to pay £30,000 to have engineers upgrade his machines to accept the new coin, and has said that as he owns a large company this was not too great a problem, however if it were a small business it would have bankrupted him.
Despite this rather long list of difficulties, we are told the positive advantages are actually hidden below the surface. The coin supposedly contains some state of the art technology that allows it to be recognised as the real deal through a Royal Mint machine, therefore exposing the fakes. The Royal Mint has not revealed exactly what this technology is but it has apparently been used on banknotes before.
This new coin is lighter, thinner and larger than the old coin. The design is based on the old 12-sided threepenny bit, a coin that exited circulation in 1971. The Royal Mint is in the process of distributing 1.5 billion coins throughout the UK, which is about 23 per person. That seems like a lot but actually it’s less than the 2.2 billion plus round pound coins that have been made since 1983 – all those coins would weigh the same as approximately 6000 elephants. For that reason, some of the old coins will be melted down to make new ones.
Soon the 12-sided pound coin will become the norm, while the round coin collects dust on a museum shelf.