Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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NonDenominational Coins

The coin describes what it is, but its value "floats"
  (+2, -1)
(+2, -1)
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In a way, there are two parts to this Idea. The first part is about the coin. Imagine a pure-gold coin that weighs 10 grams (about 1/3 of a troy ounce). Embossed on the coin would be a description of that: "24K gold, 10 grams". There might be some design or other on the coin, but they are not as important as the description. If you took the coin to a store, modern computer tech and Internet connectivity could easily let both you and the store-owner know the current commercial valuation of the coin. If it happened to be worth $300, then you could buy something that cost $300 with it. If it happened to be worth $500, then you could buy a $500 item instead.

Now imagine other coins made of other substances, such as silver, palladium, iridium, and platinum. None of them would be given a value-denomination; all would simply be marked with descriptions of the substance, and the magnitude (like "100 grams").

But there is no reason to only have high-value-metal coins. Copper, of course, has long been used for low-value coinage. So have nickel and tin and aluminum. But we could widen the list considerably, by including other metals that are neither especially common nor especially rare: chromium, molybdenum, zirconium, titanium, vanadium, niobium, gadolinium, tantalum, tungsten, and so on, even including lead. Collect the whole set! We would NOT want to use metals like uranium, but not because they are radioactive (depleted uranium is low-level enough to be reasonably safe, while others are certainly deadly dangerous), but because they simply don't stay PURE, a side-effect of their radioactivity.

Before we get to the second part of this Idea, we need to cover an "intermediate" sort of thing. Historically, a problem with high-value coinage was "clipping" (or something equivalent). Take a bunch of gold coins and put them together in a sack. Then put the sack onto a shaking device, and let it shake for a month or two. Open the sack, remove the coins, and note a fair amount of gold dust is now in the sack. Keep the dust and pretend the coins have the same value as when you obtained them....

NOT FAIR! We want these coins to be trusted to actually be what they say they are. Obviously any place that is willing to accept these coins is going to need a fairly accurate scale, to be sure the coin actually weighs what it says it weighs. And an "X-ray spectrometer" would be a nice thing for the merchant to have, too (see link). It will verify that the substance of the coin is what it says it it is, and do so non-destructively.

The second part of this Idea has a two-fold purpose, one of which can partly assist the intermediate thing just described. Seal each coin in a thin clear plastic case. If the case is damaged, that could be a sign that someone tampered with the coin. It would certainly be a reason to take the coin to a minter, where it could be put into a new case after thorough analysis (or physically ripped into atoms, for separation into whatever elements it actually happened to be made of).

The second purpose of the plastic case relates to the reason why coins made of iron generally were not done. A number of metals from which coins might be made will seriously corrode when exposed to the atmosphere. The plastic case seals them away from the air, and thus the coin remains pure. As a result, we could deliberately make coins from some of the more reactive metals, like rubidium. Anyone who opens THAT case, trying to devalue the coin, will be in for a surprise!

Vernon, Sep 10 2014

X-ray spectrometer http://en.wikipedia.../X-ray_spectroscopy
As mentioned in the main text. [Vernon, Sep 10 2014]


       [+] you'll need denominated coins as well to take up the slack.
FlyingToaster, Sep 10 2014

       I think you have invented the guinea.
mitxela, Sep 10 2014

       I'm not certain lead would be a good choice.
RayfordSteele, Sep 10 2014

       [RayfordSteele], if it is sealed in plastic, why not?
Vernon, Sep 10 2014

       Widely known to exist. [marked-for-deletion]
pocmloc, Sep 10 2014

       I suspect the original coins were like that. Little ingots, standardized by the issuing authority. I suspect you could use a gold bullion coin exactly as you describe. Bring it into a pawn shop and say you want to trade it for something of value. The shop will assess how much the coin is worth, test it to see if it is real and then make you an offer.
bungston, Sep 10 2014

       Yup. But the idea of owning a coin made of a hyperreactive alkali metal is really cool, so [+].
8th of 7, Sep 10 2014

       Up next: Carve wood into a shallow convex shape and use it to hold food.
Voice, Sep 10 2014

       We'll see your chicken, and raise you two knapped flint arrowheads.
8th of 7, Sep 10 2014

       Seems to me it would need to have more than a simple plastic case to prevent tampering. Even a highly reactive metal can be dealt with by doing the tampering inside of a box filled with inert gas.
scad mientist, Sep 10 2014

       //I suspect the original coins were like that.//   

       Well, in Archaic Greece, obols were actually metal spikes, and a "drachma" meant a "handful" (of metal spikes) - specifically, six of them - which gives you a clue to either (a) how big the spikes were or (b) how big an Archaic Greek fist was, but not both.   

       So, if you like, long pointy bronze coins, with many secondary uses.
pertinax, Sep 15 2014


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