At the end of this month, the United Kingdom’s new 12-sided pound coin goes into circulation. But if you go on ebay, you can find scores of the 12-sided coins, dated 2015 and marked as trial items, selling for £125 (about $155) or more. (While researching this blog post, we went on ebay and found a dozen recent sales ranging from $85.83 to $214.57, with the average coming in at $155.49. There was even a highly optimistic listing for $899.)
These pieces were among the 200,000 or so the Royal Mint gave out to retailers to help them prepare for the new pound coins’ issuance. The trial pieces are the same diameter, thickness, weight, and composition as the real things, so when coin-operated devices are correctly calibrated, the trial pieces will travel through smoothly. However, they are not real money. Each is clearly stamped TRIAL PIECE, and none is legal tender. As money goes, they’re as redeemable as the plastic doubloons in a toy trunk of pirates’ booty.
Part of what’s fueling the enthusiasm is this: Back in 1994, the Royal Mint issued trial pieces to help shopkeepers prepare for the new £2 coins that were scheduled to make their debut. According to London’s Sun Online, these are highly collectible now, selling for £150 or more. Collectors, eager to catch lightning in a bottle, are now scrambling after the new £1 trials; problem is, some 200,000 or more have been released into the wild, compared to only 4,500 of the now-collectible £2 trials.
Which is not to say the 2015-dated trial pieces won’t be worth something one day. But these items are much more common than their predecessors, and it will be years before their value is established on the market. The collector who plunks down £125 or more now in the hope of a profit later may end up sorely disappointed. ❑