The UK is going to get a new "anti-counterfeit" pound coin in 2017. For any readers outside the UK, the pound coin used to be worth a lot more than it does today, but in these turbulent economic times it is difficult to put a solid estimate on how much this new coin will be worth when it launches next year. Either way, the new coin will force vending machine manufacturers and companies that rely on slot coin machines to update all their equipment at great expense one must assume. But given that apparently one in thirty pound coins in circulation is a counterfeit coin, it is time to make something far less easy to duplicate and the vending machines will simply have to be modified.

The new coin will feature a sideview mug shot of Her Majesty QEII as ever, and it, the coin not the Queen, will be 12-sided (a dodecagon for polygonal nomenclature fans). This is quite distinctive and purportedly will make it "instantly recognisable, even by touch". The coin will also have a latent (hidden) image that changes from the £ symbol to the number 1 when viewed from different angles. This description of this latent image alludes to holograms (by which they presumably mean the diffraction gratings of the type you see on credit cards and security tags on your shopping). However, it just a small milled patch of the surface of the coin, not an applied decal. In fact, if anything it is those dual pictures, lenticular prints, some of us used to see glued to the front of our childhood comic books in the 1960s and 1970s wherein from one angle you might see Dr Jekyll but from the other Mr Hyde would be revealed.

The new pound coin also has some "micro-lettering", tiny text on the lower inside rim on both faces of the coin, as well as milled edges, forming patterned grooves that will be hard to copy with a counterfeiters metal stamping machine. The mint has also added some security through obscurity in that it has a "hidden high security feature" that will supposedly preclude counterfeiting in the future. What this additional feature might be is not revealed in the announcement documentation. Maybe, they have embedded a chip within or some new smart material…but I doubt it.

Finally, for the materials scientists, the composition of the coin that is most interesting from the pedant's point of view. According to the NewPoundCoin website, the coin is bimetallic, meaning two metals, strictly speaking, but in the description of its bimetallic nature, the site says:

It is made of two metals. The outer ring is gold coloured (nickel-brass) and the inner ring is silver coloured (nickel-plated alloy)

Well, that's not two metals by my count (I told you I was going to be pedantic). Nickel + copper + zinc (brass) + alloy (at least two other metals) are present in that description and that does not even count any metals used as additives to give those different components their particular colour as described. So at the very least the new pound coin is going to be pentametallic, not bimetallic. Whether or not by the time it launches it will be worth all the effort remains to be seen, I'll leave that to economics experts to determine.

But, one last thing, for those readers who grew up reading comic books in the 1970s, here's a date that will perhaps make you feel old. I'd long since stopped reading comic books and was busy revising for my university final exams when the UK stopped using the predecessor to the pound coin, the pound note way back in March 1988.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".


Footnote: Occurred me that it may not need to be pentametallic. We've got nickel-brass and a nickel-coated alloy. The alloy may contain copper or zinc as one of its two or more alloyed metals. So, it may well be nickel-copper-zinc in one component, but nickel-coated cupro-nickel as the coated alloy. Trimetallic minimum, but could be penta, hexa, hepta or more...