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Security Details Enhance New Coins
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
August 06, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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Bank notes have increasingly relegated coins to the function of becoming small change throughout the 20th century. Well, the 21st century is here, and along with it comes new technology that could challenge the wisdom of using bank notes rather than coins for higher denominations of currency in circulation.

On May 12 the British Royal Mint unveiled what it calls its iSIS coinage technology at the Currency Conference held in Athens, Greece.

The exact details of this Integrated Secure Identification Systems technology were not explained for obvious reasons, however iSIS is applied to a coin by incorporating three tiers of bank note type security. This technology is apparently not new, having previously been employed as “an additive” to bank notes, fuel, and perfume. BRM engineers are now able to use this technology with coins as well.

The mint made it clear the technology is not a surface coating that will wear as a coin is used in circulation. The technology employs aRMour® full-plate technology. The mint acknowledged that both overt and covert security previously limited only to bank note security will now be able to be used on coins.

The mint also indicated “multiple” third parties have unsuccessfully attempted to both detect and to reverse the iSIS feature when applied to coins.

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A metal coin typically has a life span of between 20 and 40 years in circulation (The BRM suggested 30 years at the conference.), while a typical paper bank note has a life expectancy of perhaps as long as 18 months. Employing iSIS coinage technology, this suggests it might make economic sense to issue higher denomination coins in place of bank notes of the same face values.

Since the iSIS coins can be detected by high speed automated detection equipment, this also suggests the vending machine industry might welcome this technology to detect bogus coins being vended. The technology could also potentially increase the value of what could be vended should this in turn encourage the circulation of higher denomination coins than are now in use.

According to BRM information, iSIS is capable of “creating a solid barrier to entry for counterfeiters and therefore eliminating one channel of entry” within the vending machine industry.

BRM information states, “iSIS offers issuance authorities a viable alternative to high-cost homogeneous and clad coins, offering enhanced security at a lower cost. It will also compete with equivalent value bank notes as it can reduce whole life costs without compromising security.”

Bank notes may still hold two possible advantages. Some bank notes are now made from polymer plastic rather than from paper, increasing the life expectancy of the notes in the process. Bank notes are also lighter than coins, making them more consumer friendly regarding their being transported.

None-the-less iSIS coinage security technology could encourage more coin denominations, likely of greater face value, replacing at least low value bank notes. This technology could also be of significant value to the bullion precious metal coin business, which also has counterfeit coin concerns.

Modern technology encouraging the use of electronics rather than coins and bank notes were highlighted in the “Around the World” column last month. There is also an article appearing in the column this month regarding the decline in use of coins in Great Britain. The iSIS technology is a new dynamic that could reverse these trends, once again encouraging physical over electronic and computerized currency.

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