If you’ve had the misfortune of having a long conversation with me in the last year, you will almost undoubtedly have heard me talk about the new pound coin, which is why I can’t believe I haven’t written a post about it until now. It’s a small design change that is going to affect the day-to-day lives of everyone in Britain, how can we not be talking about it? I wanted to spread the word because I was kind of shocked at how many people didn’t know when the new fiver was being released last year, and the number of funny, but worrying, counterfeiting pranks that opened the flood gates to. I’m thinking of scenarios like the on played out on Hamish and Andy’s radio show when they were able to spend $20 notes because no one was aware of the change over in currency.
The new pound coin is released on 28th March 2017 and will have completely phased out the old round pound by October of this year. The first thing to say about the new pound, if you didn’t know already, is that it has 12 sides. This “new” shape is said to be reminiscent of the old threepenny bit, for those who can remember that far back. It’s also thinner, lighter, and a little bigger than the current pound. Most importantly, it’s a whole lot more secure. Approximately 1 in 30 of the pound coins in circulation currently is a counterfeit – if you want to learn how to spot a counterfeit in the last few months of the old pound coin, the Royal Mint has lots of information about it. The new coin features a latent image panel, micro lettering around the rim, a bimetallic composition (like the £2 coin), milled edges as well as other security features.
Jody Clark, the Royal Mint designer, produced what is now the fifth coinage portrait of the Queen that features on the front of the coin. The tails side of the coin features the four heraldic beasts – the rose, the leek, the thistle and the clover – to represent each of the four nations of the UK and was designed by 15-year-old David Pearce, who won a public design competition. Despite its brand-new shape, its design makes it feel like a truly classic coin. The new shape and milled edges also make it easier to identify by the visually impaired (and those too lazy to look in their wallets) meaning it’s also a more user friendly coin.
Despite only being just over 30 years old the pound coin has become something of a national talisman, held up as a symbol of Great Britain in a variety of debates. Every pound coin has featured a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, so it has also become a symbol of her reign to a certain extent too. I think one of my favourite features of the round pound is the phrase just over half of the 44 different designs are inscribed with: DECUS ET TUTAMEN, which means ‘an ornament and a safeguard’. The phrase was originally written across silver coins to deter clipping, literally serving as an ornament as a safeguard. It performs a similar role on today’s pound coins, with one of the key signs of a counterfeit coin is the poor inscription of the Latin around the edge. I’m going to be quite sad not to see it written on the new pound coins, but I guess it’s just a marker of the advances of counter-counterfeiting technology.
The new design of the pound coin led to a lot of other updates outside of its own faces. Until you think about it, it’s easy to forget how many things a pound coin goes into, self-checkout machines, supermarket trolleys to name but two. Most of these systems should be updated by March. The importance of this was one of the big points of the speech I gave to unsuspecting friends and family. The important bank and payment systems are being updated mainly through software upgrades, and many, if not all, trolleys are being refitted, so there should be nothing to worry about. But, if you run a business that uses pound coins, and you haven’t done so already, have a read of this.
So, what do you need to do? First, get excited about the new pound coin. Second, check down the sides of the sofa and dig out all of your old pound coins in the next 6 months or so and make sure you spend them – the period for cocirculation ends in October meaning any pound coins you want to spend should be spent before then. Third, read up about the Royal Mint and numismatics (the study of coins) – it is honestly fascinating!