UK’s pound coins reach 30th birthday

The £1 coin celebrates its 30th birthday tomorrow – although the pound in your pocket does not go as far now as it did in 1983.

The coin was first issued on April 21, 1983, as it was felt that a coin would be more useful than the less robust £1 note amid the decline in its spending power and the growth of the vending industry.

A note lasted for just nine months on average, while a £1 coin, with its distinctive yellow “brassy” colour, can survive for longer than 40 years.

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The reverse designs of the £1 coin represent the UK and its four constituent parts – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England and the first series of designs took floral emblems as its theme.

The purchasing power of the £1 coin has changed considerably since it first became legal tender.

A loaf of bread cost 38p in 1983 according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, compared with £1.24 by 2012. A pint of milk was just 21p in 1983, but by last year it had more than doubled to 46p.

A £1 coin would have stretched to a whole pint of lager back in the 1980s, with the average pint costing about 93p in 1987. By last year, the average price of a pint was £3.18.

With a thickness of 3.15mm, the coin was designed to be easy to make out from other loose change, although this has not stopped it from being targeted by counterfeiters – and almost three in every 100 pound coins are thought to be duds.

The Royal Mint, which regularly conducts surveys to estimate how many counterfeit coins are circulating in the UK found, last November, that the ratio had dropped to 2.74 per cent, down from 3.09 per cent a year earlier.

The Mint works closely with banks and the Post Office to identify and withdraw counterfeits.

Ways to spot a fake include looking at how even the lettering is, seeing if the milled edge of the coin is even and well-defined and examining the colour.

Genuine £1 coins which have been in circulation for some time appear more shiny and golden.