The pound coin is celebrating its 30th anniversary having entered circulation in April 1983. To celebrate, Stuart Arnold takes a look down memory lane and presents a few facts about this most durable of coins

WE take it for granted now, that small, yellow, chunky round thing in our pockets – the £1 coin. But 30 years ago, things were quite different. People didn’t want pound coins, being used as they were to tatty green pound notes.

Shops and traders complained that customers would not take pound coins in their change because they were too heavy and got mixed up with other denominations.

One Tory MP who railed against their introduction went as far to say that the Royal Mint’s decision was “dirty work”.

The Northern Echo had its own take on events. A front page story on April 21, 1983, described how they were coming into circulation “amid much controversy”.

It said: “It seems that whether or not the public wants a coin instead of the traditional green note, there will be no way of avoiding the new currency.”

Inflation meant pound notes were effectively already being treated as coins and loose change.

That and their limited shelf life – they quickly became filthy and crumpled once stuffed in pockets and purses – led to the decision to replace them.

The pound note continued to be produced, but was withdrawn five years later in 1988.

As for the pound coin, it has endured, beloved of piggy bank savers, slot machines and anyone who needs one of those chained up shopping trolleys from the supermarket.

It has also spawned an entire retail industry – pound shops are now on each and every high street in the UK.

Dr Kevin Clancy, head of historical services at the Royal Mint, says the feel of the pound coin – the very thing many people once objected to – is one reason behind its popularity.

“It’s the one we tend to aim for when we’re picking through our pot of change on the mantelpiece in the mornings, partly I think because people just like the feel and size of it,” he says.

“When you look at coins across the world and throughout history, the coin that tends to have been the work-horse of the currency has very often been about the size of a pound coin.

“It’s a classic coin that has been blessed with excellent designs.”


  • The pound coin was once nicknamed “the Maggie” after the late Baroness Thatcher by some wags because it was hard, had rough edges and pretended to be a sovereign. She reportedly disliked the coin
  • It weighs 9.5g, has a 22.5mm diameter and is 3.15mm thick
  • Pound coins are made of 70 per cent copper, 24.5 per cent zinc and 5.5 per cent nickel
  • One in 35 pound coins in circulation is fake, according to research by the Royal Mint
  • The Swazi coin, the lilangeni, is the same size and weight as the British pound coin, but in equivalent terms is only worth seven pence
  • There have been three different portraits of the Queen on the pound coin since its launch
  • It was launched on the Queen’s 57th birthday, April 21, 1983
  • 440 million of the coins were struck in the first year of issue and many of those remain in circulation
  • About 1.5bn are in circulation today
  • An estimated 40,000 pound coins disappear from circulation every day, either lost or squirreled away by savers
  • No decimal pound coins in circulation are worth more than their face value, although there are special “proof” pound coins that have been produced that can be worth hundreds of pounds to collectors
  • You can buy gold versions of the pound coin from the Royal Mint for £3,600 and a silver version for £150
  • The Royal Mint estimates a pound coin in constant use should last about 40 years, whereas the pound note it replaced lasted only on average about nine months
  • The description on the edge of a pound coin “decus et tutamen” translates as “an ornament and a safeguard”
  • The pound coin is unique in British coinage because it has a mint mark – a small crosslet found on its milled edge that represents Llantrisant, in South Wales, where the Royal Mint is based
  • In 2007, Newcastle- Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge featured on the reverse side of the pound coin
  • There have been 21 different reverse sides reflecting the emblems, iconic landmarks and cities of Britain
  • There are other pound coins in circulation, for example from Gibraltar, although they are not legal tender in the UK