Cashing in my soon to be worthless British Pounds

these uk british pounds are soon to be worthless
these uk british pounds are soon to be worthless

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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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Oh man. I was just in London a few weeks ago and the news about the coins came out while I was there but not the part about the others no longer being legal tender. I have quite a few still in my possession. And yes, every time you buy something you get one back seemingly one way or another.

    1. Just have to visit again soon…maybe this is a way the UK is trying to boost tourism short-term. 😉

  2. Actually, it is a massive problem in the UK and you can pretty much guarantee that in any handful of change you’ll have at least one fake £1 coin. The only time they are a problem is with vending/car park machines. Otherwise, everyone just uses them as legal tender. Surprised Trump hasn’t started referring to them as the scourge of “fake coins”.

    1. I guess I’ve never used the vending or car park machines so I never considered the impact of the volume of fakes. And I really still do not understand who chose to go into business making the fakes and the profit/risk equation there.

  3. You can fake a £1 coin using lead and gold paint, so they’re incredibly cheap to make. The profit on them is probably 90%. The alloy used in the genuine coins isn’t sufficiently unique and the engraving not sufficiently complex. They’ve been in circulation for 34 years, so not done too badly surviving the counterfiters.

  4. This is a valuable post. I didn’t know this was going to happen so soon.

    I guess it will give me an excuse to plan a UK trip soon so I can cash in my spare UK coins 🙂

  5. There’s a long history of both coinage and notes being changed fairly regularly over the years. As you mentioned the 50p was shrunk some ten or so years ago, and perhaps it was ten years before that that the 10p was shrunk from the old two shilling coin size (which was how it started after decimilisation, to its current format. And the 5p was shrunk also, from the old one shilling size. If I recall correctly, the old 1d, 3d and 6d ceased to be legal tender, replace by 1p and 2p. The notes also change fairly regularly and quite rapidly. The old £5 notes were replaced just a few months ago to a plastic design and you don’t see the paper ones any more.

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