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Access Granted, Take Your Coffee
August 04, 2010

At least since the great coin shortage of the mid 1960s, collectors have been aware of the role the vending machine industry plays in overall demand for U.S. coins.

What the vending machine industry wants in terms of coin composition and electronic signatures has carried great weight with the Treasury. Venders don’t want to spend money to refit their coin discrimination mechanisms.

That may be about to change.

What if the vending industry stops using coins, or greatly reduces their use? Then what?

I began thinking about the flip side of yesterday’s blog about growing coin demand because of a timely article in the Wall Street Journal.

Larger vending companies are starting to jump strongly into computerized machines that take credit cards or read thumb prints of users.

No coins needed there.

I still associate thumb readers with eye retina readers and the like used as entry guardian points at super secret government installations or Swiss banks shown in the movies, not as guardians of the soda machine.

These machines also communicate electronically with the central distribution points, so hot items can be restocked quickly and unwanted items can be replaced.

It may feel odd for me to go into the Krause break room and use a credit card or use a thumb reader instead of coins to get a morning cup of coffee, but the article points out that nowadays kids don’t carry cash.

They are the future.

I'll survive, too, because I need that morning coffee.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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