The number of counterfeit £1 coins in circulation has doubled in the last five years, according to new figures released by the Royal Mint and reported by the BBC. Two percent or 1 in 50 pound coins are fake, and based on production, that would account for some 30 million counterfeit £1s circulating.
In its last Annual Report, the Royal Mint indicates it conducts two yearly surveys and collects a "representative sample base." They noted an upward trend in fake coins, which they "shared with the Police who have had some notable successes in closing down illegal operations during the year."
With the actual figures now made public through the BBC, concern has risen according to news reports. As one cited example, Robert Matthews, former Queen’s Assay Master, said:
"In 2004, people started refusing to take the South African 5 Rand coin due to concerns about the number of counterfeits. Eventually the coin had to be redesigned and re-circulated. I’m worried that if we’re not careful the same thing will happen to the pound coin."
Detecting fake pound coins
It is illegal to make counterfeit coins, naturally, but it is also criminal to use them. The Mint was quoted as saying:
"Any member of the public who suspects they have a counterfeited coin should not attempt to spend it."
With that, detecting a fake coin is important. It is perhaps more difficult in Britain given the design of the pound changes each year. Keys are checking a coin’s edge lettering, the Queen’s head and reverse pattern alignment, and matching a design to the year.
For these tips and more, the BBC has released a short video worth watching, titled How to spot a fake pound coin.