Coin and Banknote Specifications

By | December 30, 2016

A while back we talked about the origin and mystery of the Buffalo Nickel. One of the major delays in the historic coin’s authorized production and cause for its later redesign was how it affected vending machines. On the one hand, this does make some sense. Existing vending machines and other devices from the past like pay phones do depend on uniform dimensions and weights of denominational coins. I ignorantly assumed that the only real influencing factors to coin and banknote specifications were cost, security, and (at least in the past) precious metal value. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine one of the most collected coins in U.S. history being influenced in any way by the vending machine industry.

Yet while researching the topic of Polymer Banknotes as we discussed briefly on FaceBook, again vending machines are an influencing factor? Apparently one of the major arguments against introducing polymer banknotes in the United States is concern over how they will perform in existing vending machines. Hmmm. I might be able to lend that argument some credibility if vending machines accepted paper banknotes with any satisfactory consistency. 🙂

Nevertheless, coins and banknotes produced around the world adhere to very strict specifications. Take a look at any nation’s central bank Web site and you will find an entire section devoted to listing a dizzying array of dimensions, weights, and compositions. And the ability of vending machines to distinguish their differences certainly isn’t the only contributing factor. Human ability to discern a coin’s denomination by touch has certainly also played a role in specifications here in the U.S. and Canada. I suppose it makes “cents” that such a fascinating and detailed hobby requires such exacting standards! 🙂

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