United Kingdom: Possible counterfeits of new £1 coin found in circulation, thanks to anti-counterfeiting features

Composite illustration showing the most obvious errors on the counterfeit coin (top), compared to a real coin (bottom). (A) Position of the Queen’s portrait. (B) Lack of hologram. (C) Inaccurate lettering style. (D) Excessively rounded edges. (E) Gross lack of detail on outer ring. (F) Puffy, inaccurate lettering style. The finder also cited the reddish-gold color of the outer ring and the excess thickness of the coin.

Newspapers in the United Kingdom are reporting that 48-year-old Roy Wright, of Addlestone, Surrey, spotted a fake £1 coin in change from a co-op. Headline writers are under tremendous pressure to generate clicks to build advertising revenue, and many are capitalizing on the new coin’s supposed counterfeit-proof nature—but are those headlines misleading? Here are three (to be fair, the third headline isn’t so bad, although the story takes the same approach as the others):

Charity worker handed fake new £1 coin in local supermarket—despite Royal Mint claims it’s “counterfeit proof” (Mirror)

Change for the worse: “Fake-proof” £1 coins are ALREADY being forged, “counterfeit” versions reveal (The Sun)

WARNING: Fake new £1 coin discovered in circulation—and here’s how to spot them (Daily Star)

The man who found the coin says the color of the bronze ring was what first caught his eye: it was more rose-gold than yellow-gold. Closer examination under a lamp revealed a number of errors, including these:

  • The thickness is wrong.
  • The angled, 12-sided rim is more rounded than on a real coin.
  • The raised area for the hologram is present, but there is no hologram.
  • The Queen’s head is incorrectly centered, and the effigy’s nose is more rounded.
  • The head of the thistle on the reverse has no detail—as the finder’s noted, “it’s just a blob.”

In other words, the Royal Mint’s counterfeit-proof features, in this case, proved 100% successful—especially the hologram, which the fraudsters were unable to imitate. Since Mr. Wright knew what the features are, he was able to detect the counterfeit.

Unfortunately, the tabloids are choosing to interpret “counterfeit-proof” to mean that no fakes will ever hit the streets. What the term really means, of course, is that it is impossible to make an undetectable counterfeit. How long “impossible” can hold up is the real question—crooks have been steadily finding their way around anti-counterfeiting measures for hundreds of years.

As of the time of this posting, the top-tier U.K. papers aren’t taking the (click)bait. They undoubtedly are aware of the story; if World Mint News Blog in the U.S. has picked up on it, surely the Telegraph, the Guardian, and others have, as well. It will be interesting to see what approach they take.   ❑

Update, 4/25/17: The Royal Mint has apparently made a statement that the coin is not a counterfeit but a misstrike. In WMNB’s humble opinion, this is unlikely, as a misstrike would be on a planchet of the same weight and thickness. However, if the Royal Mint is right, Mr. Wright has quite a nice error coin on his hands! 

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