For the first few months since the newly designed £1 coins made their debut in the United Kingdom, people have been noticing that something is wrong with a small amount of their pocket change.
Aside from the usual fare of error coins that invariably make it out of a government mint each year, there was a strange pattern cropping up with the new one-pound coins. Amid the roll-out of the new bimetallic, 12-sided coins, consumers in Britain began suspecting that these odd-looking coins may be the product of a counterfeiting operation.
Such counterfeiting of coins is not completely foreign to recent memory in Great Britain. In fact, one of the problems that prompted these new £1 coins was the discovery that millions of fake pound coins (of the old design) were circulating through the U.K. The new versions are specifically designed to counter such forgeries.
According to the Royal Mint, the renowned state mint of the U.K., these coins are not counterfeits at all. Instead, they're believed to be the product of errors made at the mint and with retailers.
The coins in question are misshapen, and in some respects have a crude appearance. One could be forgiven for thinking they were a cheap knock-off of lesser quality. After being made aware of the problem by concerned consumers, the mint has insisted that the coins are not counterfeits but essentially mint errors.
In all likelihood, these coins are trial pieces that were distributed to retailers in advance of the new coin design's official introduction to the public. Supporting this theory is the fact that some of these odd coins bear the year-date "2016," which would seem to be wrong. (The new pound design didn't debut until 2017.) However, the mint admits that over 500,000 of these coins were indeed struck last year.
There are several key differences that the public can look for to find these oddities. They are typically rounder around the edges, lack a latent security hologram, and are heavier and thicker than their normal counterparts. As mentioned before, strange-looking British coins (whether counterfeits or errors) are not altogether uncommon. Earlier this year, there was quite a bit of buzz about £2 coins that showed an apparent rotation or alignment error.
Presumably, the number of these cruder "trial" pound coins is only a minute percentage of the denomination's total mintage. This means the variety could become highly collectible by virtue of their relatively scarce numbers.
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