As the Royal Mint begins production of a new 12-sided £1 coin made with their recently-patented anti-counterfeiting measures, it seems like a good time to look at some of the recent technologies being used to fight fake coins.
Quitting the Old Quid
The Royal Mint's campaign to invent the world's most secure circulating coin has been spurred by the plague of counterfeits of the present £1 coins. It is estimated that some 50 million counterfeit £1 coins are in circulation, with about half of the fakes good enough to fool vending machines and subway turnstiles.
Even though the Royal Mint has changed up the reverse designs and edge lettering on a regular basis, most people do not have them memorized for each date. This is not surprising, as the present £1 coin has been in circulation for over 30 years. It remains one of the most counterfeited coins in the world.
New 12-Sided Pound Coin
The most striking differences between the old and new pound is the new coin's shape and bimetallic content. It is thought that the new-12-sided planchet will give counterfeiters problems when making fake coins, especially since the length of the sides are not equal.
Another hurdle for counterfeiters will be the bimetallic composition of the coin. The outer ring will be a nickel-brass alloy, with a brass-like color. The inner portion will be an undisclosed nickel-plated alloy. Counterfeiters will have to try and find two cheap metals that will bind together to make their fake coins, but the metals will have to have the same tint as the real thing as well.
Tech Name Dashed By Daesh
The Royal Mint received an international patent in 2011 for a new anti-counterfeiting technology involving using special fluorescent taggants electroplated onto coin blanks.While similar technologies have been used on banknotes, this is the first application on coins. A big problem was the taggants wearing off of the surface of the coin. To combat this, they are mixed in with multiple layers of electroplating.
This new technology is compatible with high-speed counting systems equipped with readers that flash light of a specific wavelength at each coin, and checks that the correct wavelength is reflected back by the tiny fluorescent particles embedded in the coin. There is even a low-cost retrofit for vending machines in the works.
The technology was revealed to the public in 2014 with the name "Integrated Secure Identification System" -- iSIS. The name was chosen before the rise of the terrorist army fighting in Syria and Iraq, but the Royal Mint has pulled all material online that referred to their technology by that name.
The new 12-sided £1 coin will enter circulation in 2017. The old round coins will remain in use while being withdrawn by banks over a six-month period. After this period, the old £1 coin will be demonetized.
The Royal Mint's largest vulnerability with its new microtagging technology is that samples will be stolen and sold to counterfeiters. Even so, the bad guys may find it impossible to replicate the markers without knowing their exact chemical makeup.
The Royal Canadian Mint became the first mint to introduce advanced anti-counterfeiting technology to its bullion coins in 2013, with the introduction of a micro-engraved nested maple leaf security mark on the 1 oz Gold Maple Leaf. The next year, the Silver Maple Leaf not only got the micro-engraved mark, the field of the coin was changed from a flat finish to one of fine-cut radial lines.
New Loonie and Toonie
The micro-engraved security marks on the 2013 Gold Maple Leaf were first tested on the 2012 $1 (Loonie) and $2 (Toonie) Canadian coins. While the Loonie only has a single micro security mark, the bi-metallic Toonie has two marks, plus two latent images of maple leaves, and a lettered edge. Both coins use the RCM's patented "multi-ply plated steel" technology, which not only increases durability and reduces costs, but makes the coins that much more difficult to fake.
The Royal Canadian Mint won the IACA 2013 "Best New Coin Innovation" for its anti-counterfeiting technologies on the Loonie and Toonie.
Perth Silver Kangaroo
This year, the Perth Mint of Australia introduced its first anti-counterfeiting measure, with the new Silver Kangaroo 1 oz bullion coin. Also using micro-engraving technology, the Silver Kangaroo sports a tiny "A" in the left leg of the first "A" in Australia on the coin's reverse.
While the silver kangaroo is the only coin from the Perth Mint with an anti-counterfeiting feature, spokesperson Makeila Ellis said it is possible that the mint will consider similar steps for other bullion coins in the future.
It isn't just coins that are getting the high tech security treatment. Premier Swiss refiner PAMP Suisse has introduced their new VeriScan technology to quickly and easily spot fake gold bars.
Each gold bar has a super high resolution scan made of its surface while still on the production line. This scan captures the unique, nearly-microscopic details of each bar. This data is tied to the serial number of the bar. Then, with a handheld or flatbed scanner and the VeriScan software, a merchant can verify the authenticity of the bar.
One convenient feature of the VeriScan system is that it can work around any scratches on the bar to pinpoint undisturbed topology.
To Be Continued...
Mints and counterfeiters have been locked in combat for as long as there have been coins. While yesteryear's anti-counterfeiting methods have finally succumbed to advancing technology, today's advances will likely give the mints the upper hand for the next few years.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product