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Royal Mint Says Possible Counterfeit of UK’s New £1 Coin Is Mint Error

Royal Mint 1 Pound Coin Mint Error or Counterfeit

By CoinWeek News Staff ….
Over the weekend, British media (especially the tabloids) began to report that a man had discovered a counterfeit version of the new 12-sided one-pound coin. Roy Wright, a 48-year-old charity worker from Addlestone in Surrey, England, noticed the suspect coin while giving a tip to a delivery man.

After some inspection he observed several differences between it and the other new £1 coins he had at hand:

  • The “counterfeit” is heavier and thicker;
  • There is a much wider space between the inner disc and outer ring (the new pound is bimetallic);
  • The effigy of Queen Elizabeth II is positioned more to the left of the obverse;
  • The edges are rounder;
  • There is no hologram; and
  • There is no detail at all on the head of the thistle on the reverse.

Another interesting aspect of the coin is that it is dated 2016, though the Royal Mint says that “more than half a million” of the new pound coins were minted last year in order to be ready for the March 28 launch in 2017, and therefore they do indeed bear the year “2016” on them. In addition to that detail, the Mint released thousands of trial pieces to retailers for testing purposes in advance of this year’s public release. Some of these “coins” have found their way onto online auction sites but are not legal tender.

Mr. Wright said that his wife was the one to receive the alleged counterfeit in change from the cash register at a local store.

Most of the articles reporting on the matter seemed to take relish in the fact that a coin the Royal Mint had declared was the “most secure of its kind in the world” had apparently been counterfeited not even one month after its entry into general circulation (several links are included in the “Sources” section below). Some readers commented that they thought the coins, instead of being counterfeits, may be legitimate coins that had been tampered with or otherwise altered.

But the Royal Mint made no comment.

Then, at the beginning of the week–perhaps prodded on by the general timbre of the tabloid treatment they were receiving–the Mint stated that the coin was probably not a counterfeit.

“The Royal Mint has not had an opportunity to examine the coin, but is confident that this is not counterfeit,” said the Press Office and Campaigns Manager Jenny Manders. “We are not aware of any counterfeits entering circulation but welcome the public’s caution.”

Instead, the Mint says that it believes the coin to be a production error.

“[V]ariances will always occur in a small number of coins, particularly in the striking process, due to the high volumes and speed of production,” Mander said.

A total of approximately 1.5 billion new 12-sided £1 coins are scheduled to be produced this year. Add to that the relative complexity of the coins’ security features and even the Royal Mint’s quality control may fail to catch every error on the production line.

Recent articles, aware of the Mint’s statements regarding the possibility of the coin being an error variety, have made note of the potential numismatic premium of future circulation finds.

For the time being, Mr. Wright is holding onto his.

Security Features

The new pound incorporates several anti-counterfeiting methods and technologies. The dodecagonal shape and the bimetallic composition serve as machining obstacles to successful counterfeiting. A latent image “hologram” beneath the Queen’s portrait, located on the gold-colored nickel-brass outer ring, displays either a pound symbol (“£”) or a numeral “1” when looked at from different angles. Repetitive micro-lettering encircles each side, with ONE POUND inscribed on the obverse and either 2016 or 2017 found on the reverse. Alternating edges of the angular, 12-sided coin are reeded (milled) and smooth.

And finally, there is a “hidden” security feature, which consists of a special metallic composition with unique electromagnetic properties that is located inside the inner disc of nickel alloy.

The new coin was created in response to the overwhelming number of counterfeits–one in 30 coins–said to have been circulating alongside the older “round pound”. The previous one-pound coin had been in service since April 21, 1983 and will no longer be legal tender as of October 15.

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