The UK’s currency will face a major change this month, as a new design of one of the most central coins is launched.
The £1 coin has been round since its release in 1983, when it was introduced to replace the £1 note. But from March 28 a new coin will be launched, a 12-sided coin, made of two metals, and advertised as the most secure coin in the world.
The design is a two-part effort to capture this history of British coinage and reflect modern Britain.
The ‘heads’ side of the coin will carry an image of Queen Elizabeth II, as all British currency currently does.
But the ‘tails’ side will carry a design by teenager David Pearce who won a 2015 competition. His design features the four national plants of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, protruding from a crown.
The English are represented by a rose, the Welsh by a leek, Scotland by a thistle, and Northern Ireland by a shamrock.
Pearce’s design beat several interpretations of the famous Full English breakfast, but the Royal Mint said they decided against these designs as the Mint had to “feature something that represented the four home nations and it had to be appropriate”.
Why the change?
According to the Royal Mint (who produce all UK currency), around 3 percent of the £1 coins currently in circulation (about 45 million coins) are fake.
Along with a sense of history, the new design will bring serious security benefits. These include a hologram which changes from the “£” symbol to a simple “1” when seen from different angles. There is also a “hidden security feature” built into the coin which the Mint simply describe as a protection from counterfeiting.
The new coin is also thinner and lighter than the old coin. While this may seem advantageous, it has meant many businesses have had to adapt their coin operated machines.
Several supermarkets have already said they aim for all their self-service checkouts to be able to accept both old and new coins from March 28 onwards.
However, Bryony Andrews of Vending International magazine, told the BBC that not all operators may be so slick. “It could be difficult if operators haven’t got around to updating their equipment”, she said. Andrews added that there could be a period of time when some firms “can’t accept the old coins or new ones”.
What to do with old coins?
There’s no need to panic. The old design will remain legal until October 15, 2017, so they can be spent or exchanged at the bank until that date. However, if you find one behind the sofa after that date, you might want to hang on to it.
Coin collectors Coincraft say that old £1 coins could become collectors’ items when they cease to be legal tender. But they warn that they probably won’t become extremely valuable, though a full collection of the currently circulating coins – minted between 1983 and 2017 – will be collectible and the object of serious collectors’ desires.
How are people reacting?
Some are excited for the change in their wallets:
And others are being very practical, and checking if their local councils are prepared for the change.
Luckily for residents of East Hampshire in southern England, their local authority is on the ball.
£1 is worth €1.14 at the time of publication.