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UK unveils 'world's most secure coin'

Combining cutting-edge technology and a bit of traditional British pomp and ceremony, the U.K.'s The Royal Mint revealed a prototype for a replacement £1 coin which it says would rapidly reduce the rate of counterfeit coins entering general circulation.

George Osborne, the country's finance minister, is set to announce the proposal when he delivers his latest budget at parliament on Wednesday morning. The idea is to replace the current coin - which has been in circulation since 1983 - with a new 12-sided coin. This would be based on an old "threepenny bit" in the U.K. which was a coin in circulation between 1937 to 1971.

(Read our live blog: UK budget: Latest news, reaction and analysis)

The Royal Mint

"(This) could potentially change the way that coins are made in the future," said Adam Lawrence, the chief executive of The Royal Mint, in a press release on Wednesday.

"The current £1 coin design is now more than thirty years old and it has become increasingly vulnerable to counterfeiting over time. It is our aim to identify and produce a pioneering new coin which helps to reduce the opportunities for counterfeiting, helping to boost public confidence in the U.K.'s circulating coins."

The government-owned company - which moved from London to south Wales in the 1960s - said the new "distinctly British" coin would utilize its world-leading anti-counterfeiting technology and would be the "most secure circulating coin in the world to date." The Royal Mint estimates that over 3 percent of £1 coins in the U.K. are counterfeit.

(Read more: UK Budget: Chancellor to hold purse strings tight (and why))

The Royal Mint

It added that a public consultation would be held over the summer before a final decision is made on its exact composition. It is expected to be introduced in 2017, it said, and a public design competition will be held at a later date to choose the design for the reverse.

"I am particularly pleased that the coin will take a giant leap into the future, using cutting edge British technology while at the same time, paying tribute to the past in the 12-sided design of the iconic threepenny bit," Osborne said in the press release.

On Wednesday morning, the British public took to the social media site Twitter to discuss the new design with their traditional style of sarcasm and self-deprecating humor.



By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81.

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