The Pros And Coins Of The New Generation Coins And Why We Still Don't Like It
The new coins just don't work, do they?
Last March, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) rolled out the New Generation Currency Coin Series that comprised of the 10 peso, 5 peso, 1 peso, 25 cents, 5 cents, and 1 cent. When it was released, BSP claimed that the new design was not an aesthetic development from the previous coins; they were also made to increase the security level of the currencies, making it harder to produce counterfeit money.
Okay, so security. We didn't really fuss as much when they decided to outdate all the old Philippine banknotes and required all Filipinos to turn in all the older ones just last year. When it comes to security, it's better to keep these notes updated so people who are into the business of making counterfeit money can't keep getting away with it.
Secondly, the metallic composition of the new coins was also altered so as to discourage people from hoarding the coins to extract their metal content. Did you know that some of our coins actually cost more expensive to produce than their current value?
TJ Palanca, a self-confessed data nerd at tjpalanca.com tried to estimate how much each Philippine coin is worth when melted down, and found that the pre-2004 1-peso, 25-cent, 10-cent, and 5-cent coins are actually more valuable when melted down.
The pre-2004 1-peso coin, for example, is made from 6.1g of cupro-nickel, which actually costs P2.52 pesos when melted down. The 25-cent coin is also quite valuable, and is worth P1.50 when its 3.8g of brass is sold as metal instead.
Infographic from TJPalanca.com
So there's a disconnect here. The production of the coins are much more expensive than their actual values, which shouldn't be the case.
So technically speaking, the BSP thought right that they should be using cheaper material to produce these coins. The New Generation Series Coins are made entirely with nickel-plated steel, a cheaper material that is currently used to make the post-2004 1-peso coins. Nickel-plated steel has better wear and corrosion resistance as well, making it very practical for use in coin production.
But then, we bump into the real issue: are these coins actually usable?
Coins are the representations of the smallest currencies and just like the way that banknotes are created with different colors, coins are traditionally created and shaped differently so it's easy to tell them apart. A look at some of the most widely used coins in other parts of the world would make for nice studies to make this point.
In the US, they currently have six coins in circulation: the cent, nickel, dime, quarter dollar, half dollar, and dollar. Copper-plated zinc is used for the cent, cupro-nickel is used for the nickel, dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar, and manganese-brass is used for the dollar. The color of the cent from the dollar to the other four are quite distinct, to separate the coin with the smallest value from the one with the biggest value. The four coins in between, although they are made with the same metals, are sized differently so it's not easy to mistake a tiny nickel from the half dollar.
Image from United States Mint
So the US coins make perfect sense.
In the UK, there are eight different coins in circulation. A quick look at the British coins would imemdiately show you how differently each one is created: their metals, size, and even shape vary as the amount of the coin goes higher.
Coin images from The Royal Mint
Look at the Australian coins. Look at the Japanese coins. Look at the Singaporean coins. They all make sense.
Australian coins from the Royal Australian Mint
Japanese coins from the Bank of Japan
The old Philippine coins follow the exact same logic. Use cheaper materials and a smaller mold for the smaller-denomination coins, and then go bigger and use different metals as you go higher up to the 10-peso coin.
But what is up with the new ones? Did the BSP just happen to forget that there's a method to the way the coins were created so as not to confuse the people who will be using these on a daily basis?
People are already going to social media to complain about the new coins. They look almost exactly alike, with weights that feel just like the same, and sizes that don't really vary. So it's not just Filipinos being Filipinos, complaining about stuff. The complaints are actually valid since the new coins defy currency logic.
If BSP does decide to change the coins again, it would surely take some time. Maybe enough time for Filipinos to adjust to the new coins. But could we actually adjust to it and should we? We can't help but look at the foreign currency coins and just shake our heads.