UK unveils winning design for worlds’ most secure coin

New pound coin with anti-counterfeiting technology

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has revealed the winning design for the new one pound coin following a public design competition launched in 2014.

The winning design was based on the artwork of fifteen-year-old David Pearce and features four emlems to represent each of the nations of the United Kingdom – the English rose, the leek for Wales, the Scottish thistle, and the shamrock for Northern Ireland.

The current £1 coin was introduced 30 years ago and has since become vulnerable to sophisticated counterfeiters. The Royal Mint estimates that 3% of all £1 coins (approx. 45million) are now forgeries. In some parts of the UK, this figure could be as high as 6%.

The new £1 coin, which will enter circulation in 2017, will have the same shape as the 12-sided ‘threepenny bit’ and has been described by Adam Lawrence, Chief Executive of the Royal Mint as ‘the most secure coin in circulation in the world’.

The coins new security features include:

  • Bi-metallic construction, of 2 colours
  • 12-sided design
  • Inclusion of new anti-counterfeiting technology, which can be authenticated by high-speed automated detection

In recent years, the Royal Mint has removed around 2 million counterfeit £1 coins from circulation each year. Methods of differentiating genuine from fake coins include close visual inspection using a microscope or VSC workstation or, when coins are visually indistinguishable, Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy using the Foster + Freeman ECCO LIBS instrument.


Identifying Counterfeit Coins using LIBS


Inconsistencies in the date and design, poor quality of less prominent features, incorrect dimensional tolerances etc. can often be used to identify counterfeit coins, such methods are not entirely reliable.

Elemental analysis provides a fast and effective method of detecting fakes, with the presence or absence of specific trace elements clearly identifying coins as either genuine or counterfeit.

In the study,” Identifying Counterfeit Coins using ECCO”, LIBS spectroscopy is shown to provide the user with a spectral “fingerprint” of the elemental composition of the coins metal. Genuine coins were identified by their prominent spectral peaks indicating the presence of copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn). Counterfeit coins could be detected through the presence of iron (Fe).


The full Application Study: “Identifying Counterfeit Coins using ECCO”, is available here.



 elemental analysis of fake coins