A retired merchant seaman began making his own fake gold sovereigns for a hobby, a court heard. Milton Freeman, who was caught with more than 300 replica coins as well as moulds, told Southampton Crown Court he never made or passed them off as real British sovereigns, which are legal tender and therefore illegal to replicate without being marked as a copy.

He said: “Not in a million years never – the word ‘never’ is not enough.”

Post office staff tipped off the police after becoming suspicious when one of Freeman’s packages was returned from Greece containing the sovereigns.

The following day the post office manager kept a letter he was sending to Germany containing seven fake sovereigns.

Moulds with sovereign impressions were then found in the boot of his car and analysis of his computer found research and emails about making and obtaining replica coins. But Freeman claimed he had actually been sending back the sovereigns because they were not marked as copies and were unsuitable for making novelty business cards because there was no blank side. The coins found in the letter had been destined for a company making rubber impressions for his moulds which were for making traditional Greek decorations.

Giving evidence, Freeman said since moving from his native Greece in the wake of the country’s economic crisis he decided to rekindle an interest in coins gained during his career at sea. He said: “I was relaxing with nothing to do. My coins hobby came back.”

The court heard how Freeman, who had dealt in scrap gold in his home country, said the online search evidence and emails were evidence of his pastime. Freeman, 61, of Pine Road, Romsey, denies two counts of attempting to deliver counterfeit protected coins and one each of having custody or control of counterfeit materials and a protected coin and making a counterfeit protected coin.