The coin’s DNA

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April 26, 2012 – No, in numismatics DNA does not mean Deoxyribonucleic acid, even though the function of this recent technical feature developed by the Royal Canadian Mint and the French company Signoptic, applies to each single coin the same singularity as does the DNA to each creature. With Digital Non-Reactive Activation (DNA) each coin’s surface structure can be read, stored and re-read again when necessary.

That means that in Canada every coin produced by the Royal Canadian Mint will be immediately distinguishable from counterfeits. When exactly this will be the case is not clear yet, but ‘soon’ the feature shall be fully applicable.

In the European Union where according to the European Central Bank the fraction of counterfeits among the circulation coins is insignificant, it may not seem very necessary to apply this feature. But museum curators, coin collectors and coin dealers should pay attention to this new technology. Because according to its developers DNA is not only applicable to new issues but to older coins as well.

This could mean that there is finally a way of recording the stock of private collections and museums with very little effort protecting them against thefts. Considering that the Royal Canadian Mint plans to apply this technology to circulation coins, one might imagine how low the cost of recording a single coin will be. Thus, there would be at hand a possibility of recording large collections of museums completely even in countries where financial resources are limited. The immense labour of a complete inventory – until today it is still the only way to get coins possibly back in case of theft – would not become superfluous as for the scholarly importance; however, it would be no longer necessary in order to make coins that might be stolen one day recognizable. To protect their collections private collectors could use this technology, too.
At the same time the creation of a central archive of stolen coins would offer to coin dealers the possibility of determining almost immediately, thanks to modern technology, whether an object has been reported stolen.

Whether this will remain nothing else but a utopian daydream or become reality depends on whether technicians and museums will take the chance to cooperate in realizing this possibility.

The new technology is shortly mentioned on the website of the Royal Canadian Mint (please scroll down to the bottom of the page).

In a CoinWorld article Beth Deisher discusses the new technology.

Here you may find a contribution on problems and costs that the vending machine industry will have to cope due to the new Canadian coins.

You can visit the website of the Royal Canadian Mint here.

The website of Signoptic is here.