Got some spare Pounds lying around at home? Better get to spending them before they become worthless. That’s the message from the UK government as it moves to rapidly replace its one pound coins, switching from a round design to a 12-sided, dual-metal option. The new coin is supposed to be incredibly difficult to counterfeit, which is a good thing as fakes are the reason the change is being made. The bad news is that the old coins will no longer be legal tender as of Autumn 2017, roughly six months after the new coins are introduced on 28 March 2017.
The incredibly short window for swapping out the coins has raised the ire of plenty of folks, especially those who deal with coin-operated vending machines and parking meters. An industry trade group expects the change will cost £100 million to manage. And all to counter what the UK Mint claims is a 2.6% rate of fakes in circulation, to the tune of potentially £45 million in fake coins.
There is precedent for removing coins from circulation in the UK. In 1997 the old 50 pence design was retired. At that time roughly 12% of the total number ever minted was still in circulation resulting in £54 million in personal wealth evaporating. Doing some quick math on the one pound coins and the stats from the Mint suggests that there are roughly 1.7 billion coins produced. If a similar percentage of those are not redeemed as the 50p version then the UK can expect to see some 215 million remain unredeemed. That means 215 million pounds potentially wiped from the books thanks to these old coins.
I’m mostly surprised that the 1 Pound coin is such a popular counterfeit target as I’d think it would be hard to turn a profit on that endeavor. Then again, if there really are 45 million fakes in circulation then someone figured out how to make a decent chunk of change running that scam. As for me, I guess I’m lucky to be in London this week so I can spend the two one pound coins I have from previous trips. Then again, day one of that plan failed miserably as change from buying a pint at the pub came with more one pound coins. Oopsie.
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