The world’s most secure coin debuts in the UK today


Vending machines have been calibrated, businesses have been briefed.

After three years in development, the UK’s highly anticipated 12-sided coin hits the market today (March 28). Billed as the “world’s most secure coin” by the Royal Mint, the new one-pound coin has numerous anti-counterfeiting features usually only found in banknotes: micro-lettering, holograms, and an embedded high security feature curiously named iSIS (Integrated Secure Identification Systems). The old coin was round.

This is the pound coin’s first update in more than 30 years, intended to thwart an apparent epidemic of counterfeiting: One in 30 £1 coins currently in circulation (amounting to £45 million) are fake, estimates The Royal Mint.

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The coin’s reverse side (“tails”) features a new motif that marries symbols from the four countries comprising the UK: the English rose, the Welsh daffodil, the Scottish thistle, and the Northern Irish shamrock. It was designed by 17-year old David Pearce whose “refined” montage bested 6,000 entries in an open competition organized by the Royal Mint in 2015.

Tails. (The Royal Mint)

But not everything about the coin’s design is new. Its shape is a throwback to the brass 12-sided threepenny bit used from 1937 to 1971. The gold on silver bimetallic design is already used in the current two-pound coins.

Queen Elizabeth’s official portrait by 36-year old engraver Jody Clark, which appears on the old coins, will be reused in this issue. Clark used computer-aided design software to turn his sketch to a low-relief engraving, and his initials will appear on 1.5 billion new coins.

The Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark poses with his portrait of Britain's Queen Elizabeth following its unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery in London March 2, 2015. This is the fifth portrait of the Queen to be used during her reign on a British coins. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS ROYALS) - RTR4RQ80
Engraver Jody Clark. (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)

Though numismatists are celebrating the return of the dodecagonal specie, critics of the coin say the update is a royal waste. “The UK is swiftly moving towards a new cultural phenomena: the cashless society,” said Simon Black, CEO of e-payment specialists PPRO, in a statement. “The current, or old pound coin, has been in our pockets for more than thirty years. I predict a much shorter lifespan for this new coin which I anticipate will be nothing more than a collector’s item in less than ten years.”

The Royal Mint encourages everyone to shake out their coin jars and piggy banks. The old round quids will cease to be legal tender after Oct. 15.

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