I like new coins.
Some time in June 1982, I got change from a shop that included shiny new 20p coins.
The design was like nothing I’d ever seen before in British money – heptagonal like a 50p piece but much smaller and lighter (the new light 5p and 10p coins were not to appear for another 10 years, and the lighter 50p coins not for five years after that).
I recognised it instantly as a British coin, but a new coin for a different value. I liked it. (I had a similar feeling when the £2 coins first appeared in 1998.) And in 1982, I had had no idea that 20p coins were about to be a thing.
Today, 28th March, new £1 coins appear: dodecagons. We haven’t had dodecagon currency since the thruppeny bit was discontinued in 1971.
The reason is given that the original pound coin design was extremely easy to counterfeit: the Royal Mint has been reporting a steadily rising rate of counterfeited coins for some years, while coin testing companies say the Mint was underreporting and as many as 1 in 20 pound coins circulating may be counterfeit.
The undisclosed method which makes the new-design pound coin harder to counterfeit has the acronym iSIS: make of that what you will.
Businesses that use coin-operated machines are all meant to have had them changed over for today. Some of them won’t: Tesco had to unlock all of its trolleys because it couldn’t get them all changed over to use both designs in time.
Like most people I carry a little metal token in my purse for use in supermarket trolleys and lockers which require a pound-coin deposit. All of the major supermarkets were planning to adapt their current trolley fleet to take both the round pound coin and the new dodecagon. So we’ll be able to continue to use the old trolley tokens for a while, and hopefully, the same people who made pound-coin-shaped metal tokens will now be changing their manufactory to make them twelve-sided.
Between today and 15th October you can legally use either the old round coin or the new twelve-sided coin to buy things with, and businesses are required to accept either. As of 15th October 2017, the round pound coins won’t be legal tender any more. They’ll be garbled currency.
Between today and 15th October, whenever round pound coins arrive at a UK bank, the tellers will not be redisbursing them, they’ll be passing them back to the Mint for the metal in the old coins to be melted down and used to make more of the new coins. So fewer and fewer round pound coins will be in circulation.
If you find a stash of round pound coins on 16th October 2017 or thereafter, take them to your bank. Your bank will, for quite some time, be able to accept them, deposit their value pound-for-pound in your account, and return the old pound coins to be safely disposed of. (Talk that they will someday stop accepting these coins may be due to the volume of counterfeit coins: but valid pound coins should continue to be indefinitely acceptable for garbled-currency exchange.)
The reason you’re being encouraged to do this early is because it will be easier for the powers that be if they can get rid of all of the old pound coins as fast as they can – and they want the metal locked up in the round pounds to make the dodecagon pounds. That you’re being encouraged to dispose of your old pound coins early does NOT mean that after 15th October 2017 they become valueless: it means that the longer you wait to get rid of your garbled currency the less convenient it is for the powers that be to assist you.
Do not let anyone convince you that the round pound coins are valueless after 15th October. You won’t be able to spend them, but you will still be able to deposit them at your bank. (If you have an online-only bank, find out what their plan is to let their account-holders deposit coined money into their account.)
It’s been noted that the new pound coin looks a bit like a garbled euro – ironic for a coin to be issued the day before Theresa May invokes Article 50: I await complaints from the UKIPpers who claim they were politicised by decimalisation.