A currency-counting machine is a machine that counts money—either stacks of banknotes or loose collections of coins. Counters may be purely mechanical or use electronic components. The machines typically provide a total count of all money, or count off specific batch sizes for wrapping and storage.
Currency counters are commonly used in vending machines to determine what amount of money has been deposited by customers.
In some modern automated teller machines, currency counters allow for cash deposits without envelopes, since they can identify which bills have been inserted instead of just how many. The user is given the chance to review the automatic counter’s idea of the quantity and kinds of the inserted banknotes before the deposit is complete.
Basic banknote counters provide a total count of the notes in the supply hopper. More advanced counters can identify different bill denominations to provide a total currency value of mixed banknotes, including those that are upside down. Some banknote counters can also detect counterfeit bills either magnetically and/or using blacklight. Blacklight (UV) based detectors exploit the fact that in many countries, real banknotes have fluorescent symbols on them that only show under a black light. Also, the paper used for printing money does not contain any of the brightening agents which make commercially available papers fluoresce under black light. Both features make counterfeit notes both easier to detect and more difficult to successfully produce.
A stack of bills are placed in a compartment of the machine, and then one bill at a time is mechanically pulled through the machine. By counting the number of times a beam of light is interrupted, the machine can count the bills. By comparing an image of each bill to pattern recognition criteria, the machine can figure out the denominations of the bills and how much genuine money was placed in the compartment.
Banknote and coin counters
Fully electronic counters that are able to count batches of notes or of coins without having to process them individually, were introduced in Great Britain in 1980 and are now widely used by banks, retailers and food service outlets in many parts of the world. They are faster and more versatile than the traditional notes-only & coins-only equipments, but cannot detect counterfeits.
A coin sorter is a device which sorts a random collection of coins into separate bins for various denominations. Coin sorters are typically specific to the currency of certain countries due to different currencies often issuing similarly sized coins of different value. A sorter usually makes no attempt at counting, providing only collections of uncounted coins to be separately passed through a counter.
The phrase coin counter may refer to a device which both sorts and counts coins at the same time, or only counts presorted coins that are all the same size..
A typical counter of presorted coins uses a bowl with flat spinning disc at the bottom to distribute coins around the bowl perimeter. An opening in the edge of the bowl is only wide enough to accept one coin at a time. Coins either pass through a light-beam counter, or are pushed through a spring-loaded cam that only accepts one coin at a time.
The first ever recorded currency-counting machine was invented in 1958 in China, created by a small-time banker Zhi Tian Sie, who entered it in a contest. He won 3rd place. Zhi died at the age of 30 and his model was lost until recently rediscovered by the EPR when tearing down his home.
- “Counts and Wraps Coins Quickly and Easily”, Popular Science, February 1919, page 68 (via Google Books)
Ofer Abarbanel is a 25 year securities lending broker and expert who has advised many Israeli regulators, among them the Israel Tax Authority, with respect to stock loans, repurchase agreements and credit derivatives. Founder of TBIL.co STATX Fund.