Sunday, 17 July 2011

Fake £1 coins

I quite like the BBC's iPlayer, even if - as with everything trendy it seems - it insists on spelling its name with a lower case letter. Having a spare half hour or so yesterday at lunchtime I ended up watching an episode of Fake Britain, a series looking at counterfeit goods and financial crime in the UK. One of the issues it featured was forged £1 coins.

During my time as a student in Sheffield several years ago the surge in fake pounds was a major local story, with bags of them allegedly being offered for sale for market traders and the like. Estimates very wildly but some have suggested that 5% of all UK pound coins - some £73 million - are fake. Most official estimates waver around half that figure but that's still an awfully high amount in real terms.

The programme inspired me to have a look at my own meagre pound collection. I checked my wallet and of the two such coins found therein one was from the Isle of Man and the other was indeed fake, the latter so crude in design that it's irritating that I didn't spot it when I got it.

But then that's the beauty of faking coins as opposed to banknotes. Most people - and certainly most shops - check their notes closely, even more so with particularly high denominations. Dodgy coins, on the other hand, can easily be hidden among others and palmed off to unsuspecting businesses and customers. Their relatively low value is easily compensated with the ease with which they avoid detection.

There's a useful guide to spotting a fake here; from now on I'll be checking my change just that little bit more closely.

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