The number of fake £1 coins is now so high, that the Royal Mint has unveiled a completely new design in an effort to stop fraudsters.
"The current £1 coin design is now more than 30 years old and it has become increasingly vulnerable to counterfeiting over time," said Royal Mint chief executive Adam Lawrence.
However, the 12-sided, bi-metallic new coin won't be with us until 2017, and there are an estimated 45 million fakes of the old design in circulation already.
A fake £1 coin in your wallet is not only absolutely worthless but it’s also illegal to pass it onto anyone else. Nevertheless, you might do so quite innocently as figures estimate that as many as one in 36 coins in circulation are counterfeit.
How bad is the problem?
This has been a long-standing problem. In 2003/04, when figures were first collated, 85,000 dud £1 coins were returned to the Royal Mint. Five years later the figure had jumped up to a massive one million fakes. And the trend continues to climb ever upwards, reaching a record high of almost two million coins which had to be disposed of by the Royal Mint in 2011.
The most recent Royal Mint survey indicates that about 3% of all £1 coins are forged - that's around 45 million.
Spot the difference
Counterfeit coins are becoming a closer match to the real thing, making it incredibly difficult for consumers to spot the difference. In fact, we often only notice we have a fake when it’s rejected by a vending machine, ticket machine or a parking meter. Of course, it’s a huge concern that the counterfeiters are becoming more sophisticated when it comes to passing off fake coins as legitimate ones.
How can you tell if a £1 coin is a fake?
Fakes coins are most definitely not easy to spot, but here are ten tell tale signs you should always look out for:
- The coin has been circulating for some time according to its date of issue, yet it looks surprisingly new.
- The design on the back of the coin doesn’t match the official design for the year it was issued. You can check which designs were used in each year at the Royal Mint website. £1 coins were first introduced in 1983 and the design has changed nearly every year since. Check out Britain’s £1 Coin Designs which shows the designs that should appear on the reverse of the coin for every year from 1983 to 2010. Remember, if the date and the design don’t match up, you’ve got a fake.
- The lettering or inscription on the edge of the coin doesn’t match the corresponding year. Take a look at the Counterfeit Coin Guide which will show you the correct specifications and inscriptions on £1 coins according to their year of issue.
- The designs on both sides of the coin aren’t well defined compared with a real coin.
- The alignment of the design is at an angle. Hold the coin so that the Queen’s head is upright and facing you. The design on the back should be upright too.
- The ribbed edge of the coin is poorly defined.
- The lettering on the edge of the coin is uneven, badly spaced or indistinct.
- The colour of the coin doesn’t match the genuine article. Fake coins are often more yellow or golden than the real thing.
- Fake coins are often thinner and lighter.
- Remember, most counterfeit coins won’t be accepted by vending machines unless the forgery is particularly good. This is a clear indication that you have a fake.
So now you know exactly what to look out for. If you do find a counterfeit coin, make sure you hand it in to your local police station so that it can be taken out of circulation.
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