Tomorrow I board a plane that will take me to Germany. After a few hops, I will end up in Dresden where I will be speaking at a NonStop user community event being held jointly by the German Tandem User Group and Connect, a combination of users, including NonStop, but all a part of the greater HP community.
Packing for an overseas trip means I also take a quick look into a tin into which I throw coins that I find in my briefcase (and pockets) once I have returned to America from trips abroad. It seems rather pointless to get rid of them if, in a few months’ time, I need to return. Sure enough, I found a couple of euro coins, and as I looked, I realized I had quite a princely sum of money. What is it these days that is driving the production of coins with higher face values? Apart from ensuring that parking meters will be quickly modified to accept $1 and even $2, all it makes me do is to be a little more watchful about just many coins I leave beside my empty coffee cup as a tip.
As I pulled together my presentation, I was looking through newspapers and came across a September 21, 2012, story from The Times: “World-first coin ATMs a sign of inflationary times for Nigeria.”
The story starts out with the observation that “five new coins worth from 50 kobo (3 cents) each to N20 (12 cents) will also be introduced next year." The report said that the bank's governor insisted the plan was designed to make the money more secure, ‘[I]t will improve the currency's security features and keep it ahead of counterfeiters,’” the bank's deputy governor was quoted as having said. “If you don't need it you don't have to touch it.” The point for most people in Nigeria, I expect, is that yes, they do need the coins so yes, they will "touch it!"
Imagine stepping off a plane, slightly befuddled after a long flight, heading to the ATM and pressing a combination of buttons only to end up with a shoe box of coins? Do you act like a typical casino slot-machine winner? Do bells actually go off? At a time when many societies are discussing the practicalities of going to a cashless society, is this anywhere close to being a move in that direction?
“Officials said that the coins were more economical because they last longer than paper or polymer notes," The Times report said. "The new cashpoints … would resemble existing vending machines that dispense change."
Well, as any Australian can tell you, there is an issue with longevity of paper notes. They can be very seriously compromised if left on the counter of the local watering hole for too long — no, paper notes and exuberant barmaids are not a good combination. So yes, Australia dumped the lowly $1 and $2 notes a very long time ago. But you will not find ATMs dispensing their equivalent in coins to thirsty patrons.
OK, so there’s a lot of behind the political scene here when it comes to Nigeria, and I shall skip that for the moment. As I watch trends in ATMs, much that is discussed makes sense, and yet there are other times when I have to really scratch my head and wonder, "What on earth were they thinking?"
There’s absolutely no question in my mind that we will get to a cashless society, but not uniformly — not all populations will move at the same rate. ATMs will be with us however, as I have noted in earlier posts, as they are now so ingrained into our society that we will find them handy, even if we only use them to dispense coupons for the purposes of accessing a legacy business of one kind or another. But heading backwards and adding coins?
As any recent visitor to Las Vegas will tell you, there aren’t really coins in use anymore. The slot machines take tokens — or paper coupons produced elsewhere in the casino. If coins are out at Vegas, they certainly should be out of everywhere else.
Looking back at my tin full of coins — Does anyone still need French francs or German d-marks? — it really is a sad looking mess, with very little likelihood that many of the coins will ever be used again.
About all I feel that I can safely predict when it comes to coins, particularly those in my tin box, is that they will end up in a curiosity shop long after I have passed on. And that about sums it up for my opinion of ATMs that dispense coins, no matter what they end up looking like. I will bet that their only value will be sentimental, and the only place you might find them will be in the same curiosity shops. Gathering dust, stationed just to the rear of my completely full, ignored and unwanted, tin of coins.