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Give Up Your Coins or Else
October 12, 2010

I was thinking about the future of coinage when I was sitting in my airplane seat hearing the spiel about the airline having gone cashless. If I wanted a video player or some food or snack choices I had to use a credit card. I wondered what other kinds of businesses can basically make prisoners of their customers and demand payment in only a certain way.

I phrase my question that way because for most of my life the trend was all the other way: “We now take ... ” We had more and more choices rather than fewer.

The nature of a business changes when the payment method changes. With a credit card the payment method is also identification.

If you don’t need to check a bag, you don’t see anybody at the airport until you reach the security line. You get your boarding pass at home or interact with a touch screen at the airport.

While out and about I noticed in the Seattle area that many individual parking meters have been replaced by what I will call lot or section stations for lack of any other term.

Yes, I know I am a country bumpkin on that score because you don’t pay for parking at all in Iola.

At the station you put your credit card in and make your choice. You get a window sticker for your car. That is certainly handier for the user insofar as there is no fumbling for coins. It is far handier for the organizing municipality or business. You don’t need meter maids or whatever the equivalent might be to collect the coins and take them to the bank.

Jobs are eliminated and so is demand for coins.

I have always thought of the future of coins as something that affected just the nature of the user who might think he doesn’t want to use coins and then chooses not to rather than from the point of view of a business declaring that it won’t accept coins or cash and forcing all customers to conform.

At the host hotel in Berlin for the World Money Fair, the breakfast buffet is the only choice. Your room key is swiped through a reader and the standard charge is on your hotel bill before you take another step. There is no thinking that I might want something else to eat or that I might want to pay in cash so I don’t have to take euros home to the United States.

Will more and more retail businesses in the United States reach this point? Will I arrive at a McDonald’s someday and find that the credit card reader is now the only way I can pay for my food?

It is in times of economic stress when businesses rethink their approaches. The economy is certainly stressed now.

What does the future hold?

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Recent Comments
On October 14, 2010 Dave said
Credit cards allow for purchase trend tracking. Orson Welles anyone?
On October 15, 2010 Jessica Bixby said
I'd gladly take cash over plastic for purchases any day.

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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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