Tag Archives: British

How To Identify Counterfeit British £1 Coins

Fake British pounds are turning into a major problem in the United Kingdom. Up to 70,000,000 counterfeits are in circulation out of 1,474,000,000 £1 coins in use. That means anywhere from 2% to 5% of the circulating pounds are phony. £1 coins are widely used for everything from paying bus fare to making change at the supermarket, so there’s a good chance that the average citizen runs into multiple counterfeit £s in the course of a day.

Real Vs. Counterfeit UK Pounds

Real Vs. Counterfeit UK Pounds. Not so obvious, right?

Here are the diagnostics for identifying a counterfeit:

1) Check that the patterns on the obverse and reverse match for the year of mintage. There were 31 different designs in the last 27 years, so there are a lot of potential mis-matches. The Royal Mint has published a guide to obverse and reverse pairings from 1983-2010. Presumably, someone producing mismatched copies could argue that they did not actually counterfeit a circulating coin; this could be why so many false pairings have been produced.

2) The color of the coin should be a coppery gold. The color of forgeries is often noticeably lighter (from added aluminum or zinc content) or darker (from excess brass or bronze). Corrosion is also more common on counterfeits. On a related note, circulating coins rarely look like they came straight from the mint. A shiny 1985 £1 in your pocket change should set off alarm bells.

3) Check the edge lettering. The edge inscription changed over time, so forgers occasionally put the wrong one. I’ll put a list of the correct inscriptions in the comments section of this post. Pay special attention to the St. George cross – many fakes mess up this detail since it calls for a special engraving character.

4) The edge milling should be regularly spaced and of uniform depth. This security reeding is particularly difficult to counterfeit (based on the error rate – I haven’t tried ripping off Her Majesty myself).

5) Check the weight. Genuine UK £1 coins weigh 9.5 grams. While this may be tricky to measure at the cash register, some fakes have been reported to weigh noticeably light (6 grams or less).

6) The orientation of the obverse and reverse should be medallic. That is, if you hold the coin at 12 and 6 o’clock and spin the coin, the front and back should line up perfectly. The design doesn’t align properly on some fake lbs. If the obverse and reverse do not line up, that indicates misaligned dies. The Royal Mint does occasionally make this mistake, but it is rare on genuine coins.

Unfortunately, this counterfeiting problem is going to make error collecting challenging for United Kingdom pounds. I wonder – is anyone cataloging the counterfeits & forming a list of die varieties? These counterfeits may be collectible in their own right some day.

If you have scans of counterfeits, I’d love to see them. Please share links in the comments!

Decus et Tutamen

Australia Penny 1938

The Australians really like to show off native fauna on their coins. This large copper penny shows a kangaroo on the back, and maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it look like the view through a rifle scope?

Anyway, I’ll focus on the coin. On the obverse, this penny shows King George VI facing to the left. The boyish King is surrounded by the legend “GEORGIVS VI : D : G : BR : OMN : REX : F : D : IND : IMP”. The British love their abbreviation, right? Not only do they use shorthand, they also use the reduced Roman alphabet to write in Latin.  This stands for George the Sixth, Dei Gratia (by the grace of god), Britanniarum Omnium Rex (King of all the Brittons), Fidei Defensor (defender of the faith), India Imperator (Emperor of India).

On the reverse, the Australian penny shows a kangaroo bounding to the right with the legend “Australia – Penny” and the date. Not a lot of abbreviation there. There’s a 7 sided star on the bottom left of the coin, which the kangaroo is presumably about to jump over.

Australia 1938 Penny Obverse

Australia 1938 Penny Obverse

Australia 1938 Penny Reverse

Australia 1938 Penny Reverse

Identification code: KM-36

Date: 1938

Mint Mark: n/a (Melbourne)

Mintage: 5,552,000

Country of origin: Australia

Composition: Copper

Size: 30 mm

Weight: unknown

Other details: This is the first year of issue for the new pattern (1938-1948).

Estimated Value: $0.50-$.75

1943 Australia Half Penny

Like Kangaroos? Australian coppers are inexpensive and readily available coins that feature a bounding ‘roo. Just out of curiosity – is there a word for Kangaroo meat? You know – like how a cow has beef, a pig has pork, and a chicken has, um, chicken?

Anyway, back to the coin. On the obverse, this half penny shows King George VI facing to the left. The boyish King is surrounded by the legend “GEORGIVS VI : D : G : BR : OMN : REX : F : D : IND : IMP”. The British love their abbreviation, right? Not only do they use shorthand, they also use the reduced Roman alphabet to write in Latin.  This stands for George the Sixth, Dei Gratia (by the grace of god), Britanniarum Omnium Rex (King of all the Brittons), Fidei Defensor (defender of the faith), India Imperator (Emperor of India).

On the reverse, the Australian half-penny shows a kangaroo bounding to the right with the legend “Australia – Half Penny” and the date. Not a lot of abbreviation there.

Australian 1943 Half Penny : Obverse

Australian 1943 Half Penny : Obverse

Australian 1943 Half Penny : Reverse

Australian 1943 Half Penny : Reverse

Identification code: KM-41

Date: 1943

Mint Mark: (m): Melbourne (No mintmark = Melbourne, a dot after the date would indicate Perth, a dot after the date with a line below the dot would indicate Bombay)

Mintage: 33,989,000 (roughly 84% of those minted in 1943)

Country of origin: Australia

Composition: Copper

Size: 25mm

Weight: unknown

Other details: You might notice that this coin is a bit obscured by the coin flip it’s in. With world coins, it’s a bit tricky storing them in 2×2 flips designed for American coins, so this wasn’t quite a perfect fit.

Estimated value: $0.30-$0.50 in VF-XF condition