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Countdown to the new £1
Published 4 April 2014 by Linzi Nuttall
The new £1 coin has its roots in history but cutting-edge technology at its heart. Its design, meanwhile, could be down to you.
There was a lot to take in at the 2014 Budget, but among the stories that generated the most headlines was the announcement that a new £1 coin is to be introduced.
31 years of a classic
The current £1 coin has been in circulation since April 1983, when it was introduced to replace the £1 note. According to the Royal Mint, while a note lasted an average of nine months, the coin has a lifespan of 40 years or more.
Longevity wasn’t the only reason for its introduction though – another was the growing popularity of vending machines. As we know today, it’s useful to have plenty of coins in our wallets and purses when the urge to snack strikes!
Counting the counterfeiters
Perhaps because of its age, the £1 coin has now become one of the most counterfeited in the world. In fact, Chancellor George Osborne says as many as one in 30 of the coins is a counterfeit – there could be a fake in your pocket right now!
This fraud costs businesses and the taxpayer greatly because some of the currency in circulation is not legal tender. So, to stamp out the problem the decision has been made to introduce a new £1 that’s far harder for counterfeiters to copy. In fact, it’s already being referred to as the most secure coin in circulation anywhere in the world.
A sense of history
As well as being secure, the new coin will also have a proud sense of heritage. While it will be the same size as the current £1 coin, it will be the same shape as the threepenny bit that was introduced in 1937 and available until 1971. This coin is important because it was among the first to feature the profile of Elizabeth II.
The threepenny coin was particularly popular during World War II as its 12 sides made it identifiable by touch alone during blackouts. Today, these 12 sides will help make it more secure.
While the new coin nods at the past, it’s made up of numerous high-tech components too. At the heart of its design is the Royal Mint’s Integrated Secure Identification System (iSIS), which means the authenticity of the coin can be verified at any stage of the cash cycle.
Heads or tails?
Like the £2 coin, the new £1 will also feature two colours, with a gold-coloured edge and a silver-coloured centre. Pride of place on the ‘heads’ side will be, of course, a portrait of the Queen.
However, if you’ve got creative flair you’ll be excited to hear that what’s inscribed on the ‘tails’ side of the new coin is still undecided – and it could be something YOU come up with. The Treasury has revealed it will hold a nationwide competition to design the reverse side of the coin.
The new £1 will be introduced in 2017 – so you have a while to come up with some eye-catching designs! When so many millions of people will have one of the coins in their possession at any one time, it’s the kind of audience for your work even the greatest artist can only imagine.