Quids in: why it’s time to get rid of your £1 coins

It’s all change once again for the UK’s coins and notes. While millions of us are still getting used to the new “non-vegetarian” plastic £5 notes, it’s the £1 coin that is next to receive a makeover. The new 12-sided “bimetallic” (made of two metals) pound coin is being introduced on 28 March. Then in September it’s the turn of the tenner (see below).

The new £1, which resembles the old threepenny bit, will be “the most secure coin in the world”, claims the Royal Mint. Here’s everything you need to know about the new coin – and what’s going to happen to the old “round pounds”.

The current coins are being replaced because they are so vulnerable to being faked – around one in every 30 in circulation is a dud. The new coin will “reduce the costs of counterfeits to businesses and the taxpayer,” says the Mint.

When will I get one in my hot little hand?

Possibly on 28 March. The Royal Mint is producing 1.5bn of the new coins, and banks and shops will start to receive them from that date. However, officials say it will take about a month for the new coins to reach most bank branches and retailers.

What’s happening to the old coins?

There will be a six-month period when the current and the new coins are in circulation at the same time. During this time both are legal tender and you can use either to make payments. However, the current coins will gradually be withdrawn from the system – it is estimated that by August more than 50% of the £1 coins in our pockets will be the new ones.

The legal tender status of the round £1 coin will be withdrawn on 15 October. From this date shops will no longer accept these coins, but you will still be able to take them to your bank.

So what should I do?

“You should continue to spend any of the current £1 coins you carry as normal,” says the Mint. In fact, the public will be urged to spend their round pounds “as soon as possible” before 15 October, as they will be melted down to make the new coins. Perhaps it’s all a wheeze designed to give the economy a boost.

So if you’ve got a stash of £1 coins saved in a money box, jam jar or giant whisky bottle, these should be spent or paid into your bank account before 15 October. That said, the Mint says that after that deadline most high street banks will continue to allow people to pay round pounds into their account – although presumably this will only be a temporary state of affairs.

Is the new coin bigger or smaller than the old one?

At 2.8mm thick and weighing 8.75g, the new coin is thinner and lighter than the round pound, which is 3.15mm thick and weighs 9.5g. However, the new £1 is slightly bigger than its predecessor – the maximum diameter is 23.43mm. The current £1 coin is 22.5mm in diameter.

Will vending machines, parking meters, and the like be ready?

Businesses have had a while to prepare – the original announcement about the change was in March 2014. However, the Mint says that “not all machines will work with the new coin from the date of introduction”.

The Automatic Vending Association has predicted that the upgrades required so that the UK’s estimated 500,000 vending machines are ready to accept the new £1 coins will cost around £32m.

As for supermarket trolleys, Tesco told us: “We’ve replaced the lock … The new coin slots will accept the old and new pound as well as existing trolley tokens.” It’s understood the retailer’s self-service checkouts will also be ready.

Transport for London says all stations on the London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground and TfL Rail network will accept the new coin once it is launched.

The author: Michel DEURINCK

Michel Deurinck, born in Brussels in 1950, started his career in the Belgian civil service, dedicating over 30 years to public service. Upon retirement, he pursued his passion for journalism. Transitioning into this new field, he quickly gained recognition for his insightful reporting on politics and culture. Deurinck's balanced and thoughtful approach to journalism has made him a respected figure in Belgian media.

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