The UK is in a unique moment in its numismatic history, as the £1 coin, our core unit of currency, changes over from a simple round shape to a 12-sided design complete with two different colours of metal and an engraved surface hologram effect.
Like the recent launch of the polymer £5 note, the 12-sided pound coin launch has got collectors on the hunt for rare and unusual examples – but unlike a bank note, a coin does not have a unique serial number. So what makes one pound coin rarer than another?
- First dates
Although the new £1 coin launched in March 2017, the first examples of it were actually minted in the previous year, so look out for 12-sided £1 coins marked 2016.
It’s not clear how much these will be worth in the future – some have already sold for many times their face value and the Royal Mint describes 2016 12-sided £1 coins as ‘scarce’, although in fact more than half a billion were struck.
- Minting mistakes
Mistakes in the minting process make individual coins genuinely unique, so look out for alignment errors between the two faces of the coin.
For example, the new £1 coin should have a point at the bottom – where two of its 12 sides meet – and this should align with both the ‘hologram’ and the lowest point of the Queen’s portrait; if any of these elements are out of alignment, you may have a rare coin on your hands.
- Llantrisant mintmark
The Llantrisant mintmark is a ‘cross crosslet’ – a shape similar to a crucifix – and appears above the ‘E’ in ‘ONE’ on a special edition of the 2016 12-sided £1 coin.
In theory those particular coins will go straight into collections and never enter circulation, but it’s worth looking out for the Llantrisant mintmark especially if you have a £1 coin dated 2016, as it could substantially increase its value as a collectible.
- Closing the circle
Finally, it might be worth hanging on to a few good examples of the last round £1 coins to be minted – they’re everywhere now, but as October 2017 approaches the round pound should gradually disappear for good.
This makes mint condition ‘old’ pound coins dated 2016 a collector’s item for the future, while good quality 1983 £1 coins – the first year the coin was issued – are also likely to rise in value over time.