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Britain Plans New 12-Sided £1 Coin To Combat Counterfeiting

The new 12-sided coin billed as the most secure ever. It is scheduled to be introduced in 2017.
Royal Mint
The new 12-sided coin billed as the most secure ever. It is scheduled to be introduced in 2017.

Hoping to foil counterfeiters, Britain's Royal Mint is planning to introduce a new £1 coin that's described as the most secure in the world.

As British Chancellor George Osborne explained to Parliament on Wednesday, "the £1 coin has become increasingly susceptible to forgery" — noting that 1 in 30 of the £1 coins currently in circulation are fakes. The BBC reports that an estimated 45 million forgeries are in circulation.

The new coin, which won't go into circulation until 2017, "will blend the security features of the future with inspiration from our past," Osborne said.

As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, "It will have 12 sides, and two colors. The shape is modeled after the 'threepenny bit,' a coin that has been out of circulation for more than 40 years."

The "heads" side of the coin will feature a profile of Queen Elizabeth II and a competition will be held to decide what will go on the "tails" side, the BBC says.

The Royal Mint says the coin's design is "distinctly British."

The BBC reports:

"The proposed new coin will be roughly the same size as the current one and will be based on the threepenny piece that disappeared after decimalisation in the early 1970s.

"The new coin will be made in two colours and will incorporate state-of-the-art technology to ensure it can be 'authenticated via high-speed automated detection at all points within the cash cycle', the government added."

The Guardian quotes National Crime Agency counterfeiting expert John Sheridan as saying: "The issuing of a new coin with enhanced security features will make it more difficult for criminals to copy as well as presenting increased opportunities for law enforcement to investigate and disrupt the producers and distributors of counterfeit currency."

The head of circulation at the Royal Mint, Andrew Mills, is quoted in The Telegraph as saying the cost of switching out the coins would come in around £15 to £20 million — as businesses and local councils are forced to adapt parking meters, ticket machines and phone boxes to accept the new currency. But in the long term, the newspaper reports, the new coin will cut down on "millions of pounds of fraud."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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