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British coin One Pound

This article discusses the British One Pound circulating coin issued since 1983, only. For earlier coins worth One Pound, please see the articles on the Sovereign[?], Broad, Laurel, and Unite.

The circulating Pound (1) coin is minted from a nickel-brass alloy of approximately 70% copper, 24.5% nickel, and 5.5% zinc. The coin weighs 9.50 grams and has a diameter of 22.50 millimetres.
The coin was introduced in 1983 to replace the Bank of England One Pound note, which ceased to be issued at the end of 1984 and was removed from circulation (though still redeemable at the Bank's offices) on 11 March 1988.

Production of the 1 coin has used the normal obverses used by all contemporary British coins, i.e. the effigies of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin in 1983 and 1984, by Raphael Maklouf between 1985 and 1997, and by Ian Rank-Broadley since 1998. All have had the inscription ELIZABETH II D G REG F D date.

An interesting feature of this denomination is that the design of the reverse of the coin changes every year in turn to have an emblem representing the UK, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England in turn, together with an appropriate edge inscription, and the value ONE POUND at the bottom of the reverse design.

The reverses are:

1983. Ornamental Royal Arms. Edge inscription: DECUS ET TUTAMEN (An ornament and a safeguard - originally on 17th century coins as a protection against the clipping of precious metal).
1984. Thistle sprig in a coronet. Edge inscription NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT (No-one provokes me with impunity - the Latin motto of the Order of the Thistle).
1985. Leek in a coronet. Edge inscription PLEIDIOL WYF I'M GWLAD (I am true to my country - from the chorus of the Welsh National Anthem).
1986: Flax in a coronet. Edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN.
1987: Oak tree in a coronet. Edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN.
1988: Crown over shield. Edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN.
1989: As 1984.
1990: As 1985.
1991: As 1986.
1992: As 1987.
1993: As 1983.
1994: Lion rampant within a border. Edge inscription NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT.
1995: Welsh dragon. Edge inscription PLEIDIOL WYF I'M GWLAD.
1996: Celtic cross and pimpernel. Edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN.
1997: Three lions passant guardant. Edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN.
1998: As 1983. Issued in collectors' sets only, not for circulation.
1999: As 1994. Issued in collectors' sets only, not for circulation.
2000: As 1995.
2001: As 1996.
2002: As 1997.
2003: As 1983? Not expected in circulation until about December 2003.

The planned designs for 2004-2007 feature bridges in different parts of the UK -

2004: Forth (Rail) Bridge (Scotland)
2005: Menai Suspension Bridge (Wales)
2006: Unidentified bridge (Northern Ireland)
2007: Millennium Bridge, Newcastle/Gateshead (England)

All years except 1998 and 1999 have been seen in circulation, although the number issued has varied enormously - 1983 and 1984 in particular had large mintages to facilitate the changeover from paper notes, and some years such as 1986 and 1988 are only rarely seen (although 1988 is more noticeable as it has a unique reverse). Production since 1997 has been reduced, thanks to the introduction of the circulating Two Pounds coin.

It is estimated that 1% of 1 coins in circulation are counterfeit. One common method of detecting counterfeits (if the sound of the coin on a table, or the colour of the metal doesn't indicate something suspicious) is to check whether the reverse matches the edge inscription for the alleged year -- it is extremely common for counterfeiters to get this wrong.

  • Further reading

In an April 1993 New Yorker article 'Britannia's New Bra Size', Julian Barnes describes the meetings to choose the 1994-1997 reverse designs. This is reprinted in his book 'Letters from London'

See also British coinage.

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