Britain's Royal Mint introduces 12-edged pound coin

Designed to foil counterfeiters, the new coin also features a hologram.

Rebecca Naden/Reuters/File
New one pound coins are displayed The Royal Mint, in Llantrisant, Wales in January. Picture taken January 25, 2017.

Counterfeiting the British pound just got a whole lot harder.

On Tuesday, the UK released what officials believe is the most secure coin in the world, with 12 sides instead of a rounded edge. The change, which marks the first new coin out of the UK in three decades, comes as officials grapple with threats of fraud and counterfeiting, and the impact such activities can have on businesses and taxpayers.

“This is a giant step forward to help stamp out counterfeit coins and save businesses and the taxpayer millions of pounds every year,” Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Baroness Neville-Rolfe said in a statement.

The coin also features a hologram that shifts from the pound symbol to the numeral 1, and has micro-lettering and milled edges, the statement said. It is marked with the English rose, the Welsh leek, the Scottish thistle, and the Irish shamrock, which each emerge from one stem and are encircled by a royal coronet, a design created by David Pearce, who won a public competition at the age of 15. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is on the back.

The new design will be rolled out over the next six months, during which businesses and spenders with cash registers and pockets full of old coins can turn them in or donate them.

Despite the unconventional many sides to the coin, officials say it still rolls as round coins do, and was tested over three years to ensure it would work in machines designed to take coins, such as vending machines or parking meters. Many businesses have already upgraded their machinery to accept the new coins, and the government says it will continue to work with others who are catching up.

“It’s an historic day for UK coinage, and one that The Royal Mint has been working towards, together with businesses and industry, for a number of years,” Adam Lawrence, chief executive of the Royal Mint, said in the statement. The coin has “been designed to be fit for the future, using security features that aim to safeguard our currency, and currencies around the world, for years to come. Staying ahead of sophisticated counterfeiters remains a constant challenge and this coin helps in that battle.”

The Royal Mint in South Wales is producing as many as four million of the coin a day, rushing to meet demands as the old pound becomes obsolete. Officials say they will lose their legal tender status on Oct. 15, but banks will still accept returns of old coins.

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