How to spot a fake £1 coin

lovemoney staff
by Lovemoney Staff lovemoney staff on 21 March 2014  |  Comments 40 comments

As the Government announces the launch of a new, more secure £1 coin, we look at how to spot a fake.

How to spot a fake £1 coin

The Government has announced a new, more secure £1 coin is to be introduced. Read New £1 coin unveiled.

A fake £1 coin in your wallet is not only absolutely worthless but it’s also illegal to pass it onto anyone else. Nevertheless, you might do so quite innocently as figures estimate that as many as one in 36 coins in circulation are counterfeit.

Spot the difference

Counterfeit coins are becoming a closer match to the real thing, making it incredibly difficult for consumers to spot the difference. In fact, we often only notice we have a fake when it’s rejected by a vending machine, ticket machine or a parking meter. Of course, it’s a huge concern that the counterfeiters are becoming more sophisticated when it comes to passing off fake coins as legitimate ones.

How can you tell if a £1 coin is a fake?

Fakes coins are most definitely not easy to spot, but here are ten tell tale signs you should always look out for:

  • The coin has been circulating for some time according to its date of issue, yet it looks surprisingly new.
  • The design on the back of the coin doesn’t match the official design for the year it was issued. You can check which designs were used in each year at the Royal Mint website. £1 coins were first introduced in 1983 and the design has changed nearly every year since. Check out Britain’s £1 Coin Designs which shows the designs that should appear on the reverse of the coin for every year from 1983 to 2010. Remember, if the date and the design don’t match up, you’ve got a fake.
  • The lettering or inscription on the edge of the coin doesn’t match the corresponding year. Take a look at the Royal Mint's Coin Guide which will show you the correct specifications and inscriptions on £1 coins according to their year of issue.
  • The designs on both sides of the coin aren’t well defined compared with a real coin.
  • The alignment of the design is at an angle. Hold the coin so that the Queen’s head is upright and facing you. The design on the back should be upright too.
  • The ribbed edge of the coin is poorly defined.
  • The lettering on the edge of the coin is uneven, badly spaced or indistinct.
  • The colour of the coin doesn’t match the genuine article. Fake coins are often more yellow or golden than the real thing.
  • Fake coins are often thinner and lighter.
  • Remember, most counterfeit coins won’t be accepted by vending machines unless the forgery is particularly good. This is a clear indication that you have a fake.

So now you know exactly what to look out for. If you do find a counterfeit coin, make sure you hand it in to your local police station so that it can be taken out of circulation.

This is a classic lovemoney article that has been updated.

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Comments (40)

  • eLJay
    Love rating 78
    eLJay said

    It is illegal to pass it on, and when I got one I spent it at the same place that had given me a dodgy moulded £1 coin in the first place (a University canteen) and thus I was only returning the coin to the pupetrator in return for food.

    I now have a friend who collects fake £1 coins (works investigating frauds so I guess he's allowed to have strange hobbies). 

    Report on 27 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • rollseyesnsighs
    Love rating 4
    rollseyesnsighs said

    Why would you want to spot one?

    Report on 27 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  4 loves
  • Fiona1965
    Love rating 3
    Fiona1965 said

    Imagine if everyone who came across a dodgy £1 coin handed it in to their nearest Police Station. How much money would this cost the tax payer in paperwork and then sending it off to the banks. Let the banks collect them and refund the person with the dodgy coin then everyone would hand them back in, problem solved at no expense to the tax payer.

    Report on 27 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  3 loves
  • silkycat
    Love rating 48
    silkycat said

    I have to agree with Fiona1965. The banks/mint need to cover the costs of handing in fake coins. Most normal people can't afford to forego a whole series of £1's just to do their 'public duty'.

    In the long run this would be the most cost effective solution for the mint, as the alternative is to call in and melt down the whole lot. They'd then have to redesign and re-issue them. If I thought I could get my money back I'd be happy to get involved.

    Or even better get charities involved so that we could give them the coins and they could then claim cash off the banks. It could be a good PR exercise for the banks too. They certainly need to improve their image.

    Report on 27 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  5 loves
  • PDB11
    Love rating 75
    PDB11 said

    Interesting article! I did some work on this a few years ago, and it's great to read someone else's take on the subject!

    At that time I read that many of the more modern forgeries would fool vending machines and even the banks' sorting machines! The Mint does a survey each year, and they used to find that about 1% of the coins in circulation were fakes. In 2006 I checked every pound coin that passed through my hands, and I reckoned that nearly 4% of them (19 out of 484) were fakes, but there were several that could have gone either way.

    "The coin has been circulating for some time according to its date of issue, yet it looks surprisingly new."

    I find an easy way to spot them is exactly contrary to this - a coin marked with a recent year looks surprisingly worn, especially around the edge. Most of the fakes are softer metal than the genuine article, and wear badly.

    Another test is the font of the edge inscription. A large font was used from 1983 to 1988, smaller fonts from 1989 onward. (With slight variations - including two quite distinct fonts in 1989)

    Finally, whenever the edge inscription is words (rather than the wavy lines used from 2004 to 2007) there is a cross in the gap between end and start. On all genuine coins this cross has smaller crossbars on the ends of three of the arms; on fakes it usually does not.

    Rejection by vending machines, though, I don't regard as much of an indicator. The machine where I work frequently takes two or three goes to accept a coin - any coin, even a genuine one. (I have of course not tried it with a fake!)

    But there are some excellent fakes out there, and it is often very hard to tell them from the genuine article. It took me a while before I had to accept that there were too different fonts on the edge of 1989 coins; and there are some coins from the year 2000 with indistinct edge inscriptions that come very close indeed to the correct font, but the letters A and P seem slightly wrong. Are they fakes? I think so, but I can't be 100% sure.

    Report on 28 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • PDB11
    Love rating 75
    PDB11 said

    Great idea, Silkycat - get the charities involved! Charities get a lot of fake coins in collecting tins anyway - presumably people think that since they're not paying for goods, nor under contract to give a particular amount, they're not being dishonest by donating them.

    (My mother does charity collecting box work and my father is a church treasurer - both very convenient for my coin colelction, and my research on fake coins!)

    Report on 28 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • gr8it
    Love rating 7
    gr8it said

    The problem with just giving people a £1 for any fake coin by the banks to clear the fakes from circulation is that, its a perfect way for the counterfeiters to get money for their own fakes!

    I'm not going to scrutinise any coins that come to me, presumably £2 coins are just as bad? If I get one and I know nothing about it, I wont feel guilty spending it. The likelihood is it could only have come from a retailer, I dont get coins from anyone else!

    Can we refuse to accept £1 coins and ask for 50ps instead? are 50pence pieces also badly affected?

    One way to work this is to create a smart till system in the UK so that any coinage put into a retailers till would automatically be scanned and checked for weight , size, shape and markings. This is easy to deliver, they just have a system like they do at the US Tolls where any coinage thrown into the bucket is sifted, checked, sorted and counted by machine ensuring the correct money has been paid. If we had that sort of smart till, manual counting could be eliminated, automatic checking would be in place permanently and the coins would simply be returned to the counterfeiter or innocent member of the public to handle.

    If it was difficult to spend these coins, they would think twice about faking them.

    The sooner we do away with cash in society the better.

    Report on 28 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    How about the authorities give you £2 for the first fake coin you hand in, then 50p each for any more (have you recorded on a database) - but a £10,000 reward if your handing in a coin leads to a prosecution of a counterfeiter. Counterfeiters and those involved should have minimum £10k fine up to having all assets seized. System becomes self financing, has millions of people assisting detection of crime and more fun than lottery. Simples.

    Report on 28 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • MrRee
    Love rating 67
    MrRee said

    You know what?

    I don't care, won't check and will carry on spending the coins I receive in good faith.

    Report on 28 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • brynmaxwell
    Love rating 1
    brynmaxwell said

    Few years bank we were passed a load of fake £10 notes at care home fete. We were pretty certain who’d done it – repeatedly handing out £10 for burgers etc – and could identify family they’d come with. Phoned police, but as usual they didn’t want to know, so burnt them.

    Report on 29 July 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • steved
    Love rating 4
    steved said

    I was given a fake £1 coin in amongst change at a Mcdonalds restaurant in London, I refused to accept it and demanded another which I eventually got, to my surprise instead of keeping the coin to one side, it was put back in the till ready to give to some unsuspecting customer

    I think retailers should be held accountable for not being more pro active in dealing with this growing problem 

    Report on 03 August 2010  |  Love thisLove  4 loves
  • dodge83
    Love rating 1
    dodge83 said

    If i was to find a fake coin before it went in my wallet/pocket

    i would reject it

    if it slipped by and i found out at the till it was fake i would keep it seperate from the rest of my cash and try sneak it in next time i pay for something

    Why should i lose out on something because someone else is dishonest and that the retailer that gave it to me didnt detect it was fake

    i aggree that retailers should be playing there part in detecting these coins as thats where they probally entered circulation from the forgers

    as for what steved said have you worked in a place like that? as an ex kfc employee the person on the till is held accountable if the till is down when the till is counted at the end of the shift even because of a counterfeit and their wages deducted thats one reason why they put it back in the till the other reason is that there are no company polacies on allready accepted forgearies

    Report on 04 August 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Justkeepgoing
    Love rating 28
    Justkeepgoing said

    Many years ago I went to Switzerland near the Italian border. I found that there was a serious problem with counterfeit coins because of their relative high value. However the Swiss took the view that on balance the cost of replacing the coins was higher than dealing with the loss of exchangeable currency or scaring the markets, so they were unofficially less concerned.

    To be less honest, if I found a fake coin I would probably put it in a bag with lots of others and give it to a bank ( RBS or Lloyds perhaps). In reality I don't look for them

    Report on 07 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • marram
    Love rating 49
    marram said

    Coins, which once had an intrinsic value, i.e., the value of the metal- be it gold, silver or copper, are now only tokens anyway.

    Since the Bank of England thinks it's OK to print extra money with nothing to back it up, what difference does it make? They are used merely as a form of exchange nowadays. I accept that criminals are making money out of the forgeries and if spotted, I would be the loser, but I could always use them in supermarket trolleys! Overall it's just a drop in the ocean compared to the daylight robbery perpetrated by the taxman.

    Report on 08 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  4 loves
  • rbgos
    Love rating 84
    rbgos said

    The links on how to check the designs are broken!!

    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • reubenw
    Love rating 3
    reubenw said

    Marram, I was about to write exactly the same thing. Not worth the metal they are printed on !

    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • John Fitzsimons
    Love rating 43
    John Fitzsimons said

    Sorry guys, the links have been fixed now. Both take you through to the Royal Mint's coin guide.


    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Mike10613
    Love rating 626
    Mike10613 said

    The parking at my local hospital is £1 for every half hour and the machine regularly rejects some pound coins. The mint should make them from a harder alloy and at least make an effort to make them better quality than one armed bandit tokens. But they are employed by the ultimate bandits; politicians.

    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • mikecunliffe
    Love rating 24
    mikecunliffe said

    does it matter if we keep accepting fake coins? The whole concept of money is based on trust. We assume that the coin we are about to accept in payment is equally likely to be accepted by the person we pay later.

    The Bank of England has recently been indulging in Quantitive Easing - this is basically printing money for no particular reason other than to devalue that amount already in circulation.

    Given government inefficiency I'd suspect the crooks are producing fake £1 coins cheaper than the BofE's QE activities.

    marram, I've repeated what you first said not having first read your comment. You said it perfectly.

    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • jonnie2thumbs
    Love rating 107
    jonnie2thumbs said

    Marram, I was about to write exactly the same thing. Not worth the metal they are printed on !


    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • muira
    Love rating 30
    muira said

    just tried a magnet on some loose change in my back pocket,,(no £1 coins)..1p,2p,5p,10p and 20p,,seven coins in total..3 are magnetic,,2010 5p is not magnetic,,2012 5p is..1971 1p isn't .2010 1p is..2003 2p is..appear to weigh similar like for like..could this have some bearing on whether vending machines sometimes reject certain ones..not faking these as well are they?,,taking my magnet and eyeglass shopping from now on..

    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Chorlton1
    Love rating 61
    Chorlton1 said

    Muira originally I think copper coins were solid copper but now they are made from steel which is copper plated so nothing to worry about this was just another cost cutting exercise by the mint.

    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • CuNNaXXa
    Love rating 410
    CuNNaXXa said

    It is illegal to pass on coins you know are fake, yet that is exactly what my last employer was actively doing.

    At our chilled and frozen depot, we had a staff shop where you could buy short dated, or damaged, dairy, chilled and frozen goods for a fraction of their retail price. Freezer bags were £3, or two for £5, and chilled was individually priced.

    The problem came when we handed over a ten pound note, to get coin change. When we later tried to use the one pound coins in the vending machine, they rejected them. All of them. Everyone was getting fake one pound coins as their change.

    It turned out that the company operations manager had issued an order that any fake one pound coins were to be given to the staff shop to issue as change, rather than the company losing out.

    Of course, this is illegal, but who in their right mind is going to admit to such a crime. Besides, when a company skirts health and safety law, are they really going to be interested in complying with other laws (at the time of this post, they were being prosecuted for a serious breach in health and safety that has resulted in an able bodied person being disabled for life).

    I would also hazard a guess that if a retail outlet discovers fake one pound coins in their till, they will endeavour to pass them on to their customers, rather than lose out of their daily revenue.

    Report on 03 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • yocoxy
    Love rating 152
    yocoxy said

    Only a few comments since the article was regurgitated and as with most LM articles nowadays the regular posters blame the Government (or politicians in general).

    We're headed towards a world where we'll settle low value transactions with a simple tap of a contactless card card or wave of a smartphone with a downloaded payment application. No need to empty (or opportunity to rob) vending machines, reduced cash handling costs for retailers and no fake coins.

    Very few people would settle a transaction of hundreds of pounds with cash these days, the value of the cash-electronic threshold is falling fast. The faster the better for me.

    This calf strain is really affecting my marathon training. Damn the coalition!

    Report on 06 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • CuNNaXXa
    Love rating 410
    CuNNaXXa said

    yocoxy said

    Very few people would settle a transaction of hundreds of pounds with cash these days, the value of the cash-electronic threshold is falling fast. The faster the better for me.

    Actually, you are quite wrong there.

    When working for a retail distribution company, practically all our Asian customers would only pay in cash, and drivers would bring back COD envelopes with several hundred pounds in notes and change (including the one pound coins that would find their way into our staff shop).

    (Asian shop keepers made up the bulk of our customer base, which runs into the hundred thousands).

    Recently, I sold my motorbike to WeBuyAnyBike (not related to WeBuyAnyCar), and they pay out sums of £2000 or less in cash, unless otherwise agreed.

    Regardless of the cashless society, there are still plenty of traders and dealers who don't have access to, or simply don't want access to, payment terminals of any type.

    Report on 06 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • we buy any bike
    Love rating 0
    we buy any bike said

    Actually, you are quite wrong there. "WeBuyAnyBike (not related to WeBuyAnyCar), and they pay out sums of £2000 or less in cash, unless otherwise agreed" will pay ET, cash, chq, :-) but by for the majority will be ET its far safer.

    Report on 07 April 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Chunky
    Love rating 21
    Chunky said

    The value of a £1 coin is so low these days that I'm surprised it's worth counterfeiting.

    Report on 29 September 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Graham1963
    Love rating 1
    Graham1963 said

    Hardly going to get my phone out to go on a website before accepting some in my change. Ill just pass it on.

    Reason Stagecoach are 1st to notice is because the machine rejects the fakes when drivers pay their takings in at the end of the day.

    Report on 26 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • StephenIzzy
    Love rating 7
    StephenIzzy said

    I've come across quite a few £1 coins even had some from HSBC when wanted change for work, when we went through the £1 pound coinsthat our daughter was saving we found ten in the forty pounds that she had, needless to say they got passed on, went out for a birthday dinner for my mother went to pay and they found a £20 pound note that was fake but thankfully they gave it back which they are not suppose to, Do the right thing, yer right the banks are a con anyway. Not forgetting fake notes that come out the cash machines.

    Report on 26 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • nickpike
    Love rating 308
    nickpike said

    The Bank of England are allowed to get away with it, nearly 500bn now.

    It's fake money anyway. It's Fiat money and hence has no value. That's why it is slowly collapsing in 'value'. Have you ever seen it attain more value?

    Report on 26 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • yocoxy
    Love rating 152
    yocoxy said

    Since cash is basically just a token anyhow (I get x thousands per month to represent the work I did and then spend x hundreds to reflect the sterling work of Asda and the farmers in making food available), does it really matter if its a 'real' coin? I received the token as being valued at £1 and spent it on goods of the same value.

    I'm not going to be checking because its the finder of the counterfeit that loses out in this chain.

    Are you hoping for deflation Nick? Of course a £1 coin becomes less valuable due to inflation if it's not invested and therefore 'earning' some additional value to keep up.

    Report on 27 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • CuNNaXXa
    Love rating 410
    CuNNaXXa said

    So, how about this for a scam...

    A cashier takes your payment for goods, then holds up one of those pound coins and tells you she thinks it is fake. She puts the coin aside, ready to be handed to the police, and you hand her another pound coin to replace the one that is supposedly fake.

    At the end of the day, the cashier has earned herself a nice little bonus, collecting many real, but worn, one pound coins. The till is correct, so no one knows of this little scam.

    Remember that any sort of crime has two edges. We can find ourselves with fake one pound coins, or have someone try and tell us a genuine coin is a fake.

    Also, it is illegal to pass on a forgery, yet show me a policeman who will take such an accusation seriously. If, while in a retail outlet, you get handed a dodgy pound coin, the police will not appreciate you making a 999 call (or even a 101 call), and would probably accuse you of time wasting.

    What the Mint needs to do is to estimate the number of fake coins in circulation, and adjust accordingly. The police can concentrate on catching the forgers. Meanwhile, the judicial system needs to look at the lengths of the custodial sentences being handed out, because they are woefully short, and don't appear to be a real deterrent to the hardcore counterfeiters who forge with impunity.

    Report on 27 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • edwardmk2879
    Love rating 65
    edwardmk2879 said

    We were on holiday in Florida a few years ago. My wife went to a bank machine and drew out some spending money. There were several $50 bills.

    We went virtually directly to the tourist shop she wanted to spend in. At the till, the cashier took the bill and spent some time checking it. We couldn't see what she was doing. She then asked to be excused and went to another office. She re-appeared with the manager who informed us that the fifty dollar bill was a fake and they couldn't accept it in payment for the goods. Under the law they were confiscating the bill.

    They reckoned without my wife's reaction which was to instantly accuse the guy of a scam. Either that or the Bank which issued the notes was guilty of fraudulently issuing fake notes from their machine. He backed down instantly, said he'd sort it out with his local Bank as we were tourists, and the goods and change were issued as if nothing had happened.

    I'm afraid we decided not to report it, as we didn't want further hassle, but this must happen a lot.

    Report on 27 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • edwardmk2879
    Love rating 65
    edwardmk2879 said

    As to arresting the fraudsters, whilst I have no sympathy for them, they are amateurs. They only 'printed' £1,500,000, and got caught.

    As nickpike points out, the B of E has 'printed' circa £500,000,000,000. Those in charge are laughing all the way to their own Banks, but don't tolerate any competition. They are sadly above the law.

    The 'Cantillon' effect benefits the small cabals who control the money printing processes in various countries. Those cabals profit by taking a small cut from enormous sums of money they 'create'. The rest of us lose out as our existing hard earned money is very deliberately devalued.

    “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), founder of the House of Rothschild.

    “The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.” The Rothschild brothers of London writing to associates in New York, 1863.

    "Despite these warnings, Woodrow Wilson signed the 1913 Federal Reserve Act. A few years later he wrote: I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men. -Woodrow Wilson"

    Report on 27 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Extremist
    Love rating 16
    Extremist said

    Very public spirited of you Edwardmk2879, you managed to get away without being ripped off but sod everyone else who comes afterwards! One thing that really winds me up is people who "don't want further hassle" when they are in a position to do something about scumbags who take advantage of the honest. Maybe the next time YOU get stitched up, some other selfish git will have decided he didn't have the time to make a phone call to prevent it, see how that feels.

    I can appreciate the police don't always jump into action, take their time, or simply aren't interested, but surely all honest people can find the time to make the call and report it? After that, well, you've done your bit, it's up to Law Enforcement. (And I can tell you now, the FBI would be onto this like Adele onto a buffet table).

    Report on 22 March 2014  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • easygoing
    Love rating 170
    easygoing said

    I know Lovemoney likes to recycle articles but this one is nearly 4 years old. I just cannot imagine who would go through all the £1 coins in their pocket to check each coin. A recent TV programme on fraud showed that even the experts find it nigh impossible to detect a fake these days. Nope, like everyone else I suspect, I shall go on churning them through the system. This has been going almost since the coin was first minted and if the banks and the government have taken all this time to sort it out then tough. A recent report suggests that 1 in 3 coins is a fake, are you really suggesting that I hand a third of my money into a bank or police station?

    Report on 22 March 2014  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    I presume the 'Lovemoney staff' actually died at their posts four years ago and no-one told them yet?

    Report on 22 March 2014  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Latent
    Love rating 21
    Latent said

    If you check your coins and find forgeries you are guilty as charged if you pass it on. So who in their right mind would check? Ridiculous.

    Report on 23 March 2014  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • jegwe
    Love rating 1
    jegwe said

    Perhaps if there were not so many genuine variants it might be easier to spot a fake. Personally, i have no idea what is supposed to be on the back of a coin and I did not even know that they had changed the size of the font. How many people have eyesight that is good enough to read the date on the coin without scrutinising it close up ?

    Report on 24 March 2014  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Dpreeyore
    Love rating 0
    Dpreeyore said

    Agree with jegwe surely the bonus should be on the banks to check all coins passing through their hands and withdraw the fakes? They should have the means to do this, the consequences of a forgery should not fall on unsuspecting people. After all, the banks have to cover for many other instances of identity theft or card theft.

    Report on 25 March 2014  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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