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Should the Royal Mint have given the penny a milled edge, in order to help the blind?

Yes
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Voting closes: February 18, 2019, 02:13:38 PM

Author Topic: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins  (Read 296 times)

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Online <k>

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When a 20 pence coin was first considered in 1979 to 1980, trials of the coins were produced. The blind expressed their satisfaction with these. However, the Royal Mint discovered that the corners of the trials were too sharp to introduce into mass production, because they would have caused problems with their minting. Accordingly, the Mint softened the corners of the coin, making them more rounded.

Sadly, the blind discovered that in practice this sometimes caused difficulties when they were trying to distinguish the 20 pence coin from the penny. The two coins were of a similar diameter. The blind like to feel a coin by its edge in order to distinguish it, but they were confused by the rounded edges of the 20 pence coin.

The Royal Mint briefly suggested giving the penny a milled edge to help distinguish it. There would still have been a legacy problem with old pennies. However, the Mint argued that the penny was among the first to disappear from circulation, since people lost them or saved them in bottles. Therefore the legacy problem would largely solve itself, so the argument went.

I took a screenshot of a Royal Mint document dated October 1987, as presented in a National Archives PDF. Sadly, I forgot to note the document number, but I was processing masses of online PDFs back then and was sometimes a little hasty. It is surprising that this discussion continued into late 1987, given that the 20 pence coin had been released in 1982. Furthermore, it is clear that the Royal Mint ultimately did nothing to solve the problem for the blind, and I do wonder whether they still occasionally have problems in distinguishing the two coins (1p and 20p).

Online <k>

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2019, 04:23:41 PM »
Below I show the text that appears on the image that I attached above. It comes from a Royal Mint memo written by the Deputy Master of the Mint. Then any blind people looking at this topic will also be able to read it, with the help of whichever technology they use.



THE 20 PENCE COIN.

Your minute of 2 October.

I find it very surprising that organisations representing the Blind feel that sharpening up the corners of new issues of 20p coins would be of any significant assistance. 1 would have thought it would have been much more helpful to start issuing 1p coins with some sort of edge treatment, even though this would require a new Order in Council. Nevertheless, if the blind would prefer us to change the format of the 20p, then I suppose it is best to follow their advice, even if we think a change to the 1p would be more helpful. l am therefore content for you to go ahead as proposed in your minute.

D J Gerhard.
Deputy Master
9 October 1987.

Offline chrisild

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2019, 11:05:22 PM »
Obviously somebody who is blind is more competent in that regard than I am, but my guess would have been that the edges are "different enough". Yes, the transition from one edge segment to the next is not sharp, but wouldn't the difference between a round coin and the 20p still be noticeable and tangible?

Side note - <k> posted some more considerations regarding the 20p coin here:
http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,44682.msg280819.html#msg280819
(not about blind or vision impaired people, and how they tell the coins apart, but still interesting)

And yet another side note - These days there are some cool tools that will identify paper money denominations if you point a smartphone camera at a note. Unfortunately coins are much more difficult in this regard ...

Christian

Online <k>

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2019, 11:33:05 PM »
Transactions in shops go relatively quickly. Some blind people, if only recently blind, might have more difficulty than blind people whose sense of touch has sharpened up. And the matter was raised with the Royal Mint, so presumably there was (and is) some substance to it. Just a pity that the Mint didn't follow it up in the end.

Offline Alan71

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2019, 12:22:14 AM »
I don’t really get the Royal Mint’s reasoning: “Royal Mint discovered that the corners of the trials were too sharp to introduce into mass production, because they would have caused problems with their minting.”
Considering they’d been producing the 50p coin for 10 years or so, this doesn’t make sense.  Why the need to make the corners more rounded on the 20p but not the 50p?  Why couldn’t the 20p merely be a smaller version of the 50p?

[Still a bit uncomfortable with the terminology, “the blind” as opposed to “blind people” or “people with visual impairments” but as the Mint itself appears to have used it, it’s consistent with the times.  Describing any other minority in that way now would be heavily frowned upon and unacceptable!  “The gay”, “The black”?  I don’t think so!]

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2019, 02:05:01 PM »
I'm surprised that blind people had/have problems with the 20p and 1p coins in particular. I'm not blind, so I take it for given that my sense of touch is much less well developed than that of a blind person, and if I have a pocketful of change the two coins I can most reliably pick out are the 20p and 50p, for the obvious reason.

Given that (a) the Royal Mint in the end decided to do nothing, and (b) we don't seem to have heard any more about this in the intervening nearly 40 years the 20p has been in use, I wonder whether it had more to do with familiarity with the denomination than the physical characteristics of the blanks. If people aren't mentally expecting a 20p because they've not got used to its existence yet, then their brain will process what their hands feel to the nearest logical outcome, which is indeed the penny. As people got used to the 20p, the difference became obvious because people were looking for it.

Online <k>

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2019, 04:03:11 PM »
As people got used to the 20p, the difference became obvious because people were looking for it.

Except that if you are blind, you can't literally look for it. And the memo that I quoted is dated October 1987, over 5 years after the introduction of the 20 pence coin.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2019, 05:13:11 PM »
The note is a strong indication that it is very difficult to work the edge of a heptagonal coin. Note that the dodecagonal 3d was smooth also.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2019, 05:49:37 PM »
Except that if you are blind, you can't literally look for it. And the memo that I quoted is dated October 1987, over 5 years after the introduction of the 20 pence coin.

I was using "look" in an extended way...  ;)

Yes, you're right that five years is quite a long time in that context. But nevertheless, nothing was done and as far as I know there haven't been persistent complaints subsequently.

Online <k>

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2019, 09:38:06 PM »
as far as I know there haven't been persistent complaints subsequently.

But why/how would you know, being sighted and not blind?

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2019, 08:25:27 AM »
But why/how would you know, being sighted and not blind?

If the issues are widespread enough, they get covered by the general media. Also, if the issues were widespread enough, the RM probably would have done something about them, or come out with a detailed explanation of why they couldn't. I figured that if such an explanation existed, you or eurocoin as expert researchers of mint plans would have discovered them by now!  :P

Online <k>

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2019, 06:52:47 PM »
I realise you are being facetious, of course.  ;)

However, there is a larger issue here. The 20 pence coin was first issued in 1982. The memo that I quoted is dated 1987, and the blind evidently felt it was still a problem after all those years. Disabled people do of course feel that their concerns are often sidelined or ignored. The fact that I never heard or read anything about this until I looked at those documents a couple of years ago suggests that disabled people sometimes do find it hard to be heard.

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2019, 08:19:57 AM »
That's very true.

One other thing that arises from this: I presume that the RM tests prototypes with e.g. blind people while still at the planning stage, and I presume this was done in the case of the 20p. If significant numbers of blind people then have difficulty with the coin as issued, it suggests there is something wrong with the testing process. Are they asking the wrong people? For example, asking blind people who are more clued up than average about coins, their shapes and sizes etc.? Then when the coin gets used in general all the people - blind and sighted - who don't consciously think about the coins they use have a different reaction.

We also don't know how many blind people as a proportion of the total had/have this problem. Generally speaking, people who have a problem with something are more likely to contact the authorities or an interest group about it, than people who don't have a problem or regard the thing entirely positively. So you always risk getting a skewed view of how big a problem is. In this case, if it was a small minority of blind people who had the problem, the difficulties attendant on making the corners sharper or giving the penny a milled edge might simply have been seen as a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Online <k>

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2019, 01:30:13 PM »
Do you always have to have the last word?  :(

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Royal Mint discussion: the blind, the penny and the 20 pence coins
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2019, 01:42:35 PM »
No, I do. :D

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.