Counterfeit £1 coins now make up 3% of all the £1 coins in circulation. Here's how to spot a fake.
The Royal Mint has warned that three in every 100 £1 coins is now a fake, with the total number of counterfeights rising to 44 million.
That number has grown by three million in the space of just nine months.
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. Stagecoach is just one high-profile company that has noticed a recent increase in the number of fake coins.
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 the last financial year.
In fact, there are now so many fake coins in circulation that the Royal Mint could be forced into the costly measure of scrapping and reissuing the whole lot with new designs, especially if the number of counterfeit coins continues to increase at a similar rate.
Clearly, re-minting all £1 coins would be a nightmare for consumers, retailers and banks up and down the country. But taking no action may undermine confidence in the currency if the problem worsens. A lack of decisive action could lead retailers and businesses to start rejecting the coins, even those which are perfectly genuine.
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 Royal Mint's 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.