UK takes on counterfeiters with new £1 coin

UK takes on counterfeiters with new £1 coin

Britain is to get a new 12-sided £1 coin which the government promises will be the most secure in the world and help to fight counterfeiters.

The new coin - modelled on the old threepenny bit, which went out of circulation with the advent on decimalisation in 1971 - replaces the current offering, which has been around for 30 years.

The Royal Mint estimates that three per cent of all £1 coins are now forgeries. Over the past few years, around two million fakes have been removed from circulation every 12 months, at considerable cost to banks and the general economy.

Plans for the coin were unveiled as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne prepares to deliver his Budget today. This morning Osborne tweeted a picture of the coin against his famous red box:

In addition to having 12 sides, the proposed replacement will have a bi-metallic construction of two colours and include the Mint's new Integrated Secure Identification System (iSIS) technology.

The Mint has spent around £2 million on iSIS and claims that it enables not just coins, but the whole cash cycle to be more secure, protecting the public, vending machine operators, retailers, and the wider banking system.

The coin will have the Queen's effigy on the 'heads' side, but there will be a public competition to decide the design for the reverse, or 'tails' side.

Says Osborne: "With advances in technology making high value coins like the £1 ever more vulnerable to counterfeiters, it's vital that we keep several paces ahead of the criminals to maintain the integrity of our currency.

"I am particularly pleased that the coin will take a giant leap into the future, using cutting edge British technology while at the same time, paying tribute to the past in the 12-sided design of the iconic threepenny bit."

It's not just Britain's coins which are getting a makeover. In December the Bank of England confirmed that banknotes are going plastic, beginning in 2016 with a fiver featuring the face of Winston Churchill.

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 March, 2014, 12:15Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Waste of money?..

IMHO, the better approach (and use of the Gov't resources) would be to push the UK towards cashless society/digital currency. That's where the future is...

Kevin Yee
Kevin Yee - OCBC Bank - New York 20 March, 2014, 01:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Agreed Alexander, but perhaps it will be quite many years before physical currency becomes second class in terms of usage. In the meantime stepping up security of coins does make sense.

One a separate note, these are eerily similar to the S$1 coins Singapore introduced in mid-2013...

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 20 March, 2014, 11:49Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I agree with Kevin. It'll be quite a while before the general public are ready to shed their dependency on cash and give 'big brother' the opportunity to track every transaction. 

The thing that surprised me about the new coin is its size. Given the ongoing difficulties in getting £5 notes into circulation and £1 coins being issued as change on sub £10 transactions, I think they missed a trick to make it much smaller than in the picture. Couldn't they give it a size between the 20p and 50p piece?  It'd be more convenient to carry!


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