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Obverse of 1986 Fake One Pound Coin
Obverse of 1986 Fake One Pound Coin

Reverse of 1986 Fake One Pound Coin
Reverse of 1986 Fake One Pound Coin

Obverse of 1989 Fake One Pound Coin
Obverse of 1989 Fake One Pound Coin

Reverse of 1989 Fake One Pound Coin Obverse of 1989 Fake One Pound Coin

Fake Pound Coins in Circulation
The subject of fake pound coins in circulation has cropped up in media reports on more than one occasion. It has been estimated that as many as 1 in 36 pound coins now in circulation is a counterfeit. Given the sheer number of fake pound coins in circulation, it is almost a certainty that any British resident reading this will have handled a fake, unwittingly or not, but how can you tell whether a 1 coin is a fake or not?

Edge Lettering
The edge lettering on a pound coin can be either way up in relation to the to the obverse and reverse. The edge lettering is struck on to the coin in a process seperate to that in which the obverse and reverse designs are struck onto the flat sides of the blank flan. Consequently, the writing can be either 'upside down' or the 'right way up' when looking at a pound coin with the Queen's head facing up. This is perfectly normal, and does not mean that the coin is a fake, however, the edge lettering should match the reverse design. If the coin is of an English, Northern Irish or 'Royal Coat of Arms' type design, the edge inscription should read 'DECUS ET TUTAMEN', if the coin is of a Welsh design, it should read 'PLEIDIOL WYF I'M GWLAD' and if a Scottish design, it should read 'NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT'. However, the Bridge commemorative series issued from 2004 until 2008 should have a patterned edge. If the edge lettering does not match the reverse design, the chances are the coin is a counterfeit.

Reverse Design
With the exception of some pattern and proof coins (which you would not generally find in circulation), all pound coins, before 2010, should have the same reverse design as any other coin struck in the same year. From 2010 onwards, the mint have released 2 different designs each year (e.g. London and Belfast). If you have a coin which has a different reverse design to the coins issued in the same year, the chances are that at least one of the coins is a fake.

Modern coins are struck according to strict tolerances. However, there can be slight variations on either side, mostly due to honest wear and tear if the coin is too light. The official weight of a pound coin is 9.5 grams. We have found that the tolerance threshold for genuine pound coins is between 9.3 grams and 9.68 grams. If they vary much beyond either side of this weight tolerance however, there is a good chance that the coin is a fake.

Obverse/Reverse Alignment
All pound coins should be struck in 'medal alignment'*. This means that if you look at the reverse design, place your thumb on the bottom of the design, and your forefinger on the top, and then spin the coin around on the horizontal axis, the Queen's portrait should be facing the same way up as the reverse design. If the Queen is out of alignment, or even upside down, the coin is probably fake.

Portrait Type
Pound coins of any given year should have the same portrait type as any other coin issued in the same year. Pound coins of 1983-84 inclusive should have the Machin (second) portrait type, those of 1985-97 should have the Maklouf (third) type portrait, and those of 1998-present should have the Broadly (fourth) type portrait. If the coin does not have the correct portrait for the year for which it was issued, that coin is probably a fake.

General Appearance
A pound coin should have a brassy yellow appearence. Although the shade can vary according to how the coin has toned and worn since it was first issued, it should not be of a silvery-grey appearence. Lead alloy fakes are fairly common,** because lead is heavy, and a light coin is more likely to arouse suspicion than a slightly heavy one. The coin should also look quite sharp and well-struck. This is different from a coin that has been worn with use. To give you some idea, have a look at some of the coins pictured on the right. If you look closely, you can probably tell that some of the design is missing not because it has worn off, but because it was never there in the first place. In addition, although many fakes are struck, cast fakes are common, and these cast coins often have a 'pitted' appearence about them, as a result of trapped air bubbles and imperfections in a crudely made mould. These should not however, be mistaken for the dents and stratches present on any coin which has been in circulation for several years, but most people with experiance in handling coins (i.e. most people) should be able to to discern the difference between pitting and wear, as the former will give the coin an 'odd' looking appearence, whereas the latter is perfectly normal and seen almost every day by those who regularly use pound coins as currency.

The 2008 Pound Coin
The 2008 pound coin deserves a special mention on this page, because it has been a source of great confusion, with many shopkeepers, especially in Northern Ireland refusing to accept it, even though they are usually perfectly genuine. The reason for this is because of the lack of beading around the edge of the field, which is present on most other pound coins. However, this is merely a design feature of this particular coin type, and the coin should be accepted as genuine, unless there are other factors such as those listed above which should give you a cause for concern.

What To Do If You Find a Fake
If you do find a fake coin in your change, trying to pass it off as money when you know it to be a counterfeit is a criminal offence for which you could in theory be prosecuted. In practice, the problem is so widespread that most people will have passed fakes on to other people, unwittingly or otherwise. If you do this knowingly however, you are essentially defrauding someone else of the sum of money the coin is supposed to represent, which is literally and morally a crime. When we find a fake, we generally keep it for educational purposes, you may wish to do this also, but they can also be turned over to a bank so that they can be taken away and destroyed.

The Future of the Pound Coin
There has been speculation recently (July 2010) that the pound coin may be recalled and eventually demonetised and replaced with a new issue to combat the increasingly serious problem of fake pound coins in circulation. Although fake two pound coins are not unknown, they are considerably more difficult to forge convincingly due in large part to their bi-metallic design. If the Royal Mint was ever to go through with a speculated recoinage, this could possibly be the way forward in tackling this issue in a way that makes the job of a counterfeiter more difficult. Whatever is decided, it can only be hoped that the measures taken are effective in eradicating this problem to the largest extent possible, because as interesting as this topic is to numismatists such as ourselves, counterfeiting is a serious crime which is damaging to the economy and victimises every citizen and inhabitant of this country, with the exception of the counterfeiters and their criminal associates who are the only ones who benefit from this fraudulent activity.

*As opposed to what is (slightly confusingly) known as 'coin alignment', which describes a coin in which the portrait is 'upside down' when the same method of turning the coin around on the horizontal axis is applied.

**These silvery/grey coloured fakes are often covered with a brassy yellow substance which wears off as it circulates, as is the case with the second fake pictured on the right.

Type Chart of Every Pound Coin Design

More about the Welsh Dragon

World Pound Coins
We have a page listing £1 Coins of Other Countries.

If you want to find the value of a coin you own, please take a look at our page I've Found An Old Coin, What's It Worth?

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