"They shall no longer be a legal tender for payment as well as on account." - P Vijaya Bhaskar. Regional Director RBI

30 June 2011, when RBI stopped 25 paise coins, that left us with 50 paise, 1 rupee, 2 rupee and 5 rupee coins in circulation. I remember there was a 10 rupee coin as well. At one point we even had 1 paise, 2 paise, 3 paise coins.

Stainless steel coinage of 1 rupee, 25 and 50 paise, was introduced in 1988 and in 1992. I do not remember the exact date when the new designed coins came in circulation. Roughly I can say in 2007 we started using the new shining coins. This particular article attempts to compare the old coins and new coins.

Is there a need to compare the old and the new coin?

YES, according to me the news coins are not well designed as compared to the old coins. I have compared 1 rupee, 2 rupee and 5 rupee coins. This comparison is done in material, visual form, graphic design and from accessibility point of view. The following is comparison is about the 2 rupee coin.

The 2 Rupee coin

The old eleven sided 2 rupee coins were made from Cupro-Nickel weighing 6:00 gms. The new circular coins are made from Ferratic Stainless Steel weighing 5.62 gms. Diameter is increased from 26 mm to 27 mm. Below are few samples.

Two rupees coin from 1992~2010

1.1 Material

Cupro-Nickel was commonly used in silver colored circulation coins. A typical mix is 75% copper, 25% nickel and a trace amount of manganese. In the past true silver coins were debased with this material. Despite high copper content, the colour of Cupro-Nickel is remarkably is silver. The material was used by Romans, Chinese and ancient Greeks to produce coins.

Ferritic stainless steel is a plain chromium stainless steel varying chromium content between 11% to 18%, but with low carbon content.

Both these materials are resistive to corrosion. Cupro-Nickel is more resistive as compared to ferritic stainless steel.

The detail of the design depends on the ductility and malleability property of the material used for coin. The following list ranks metals from the greatest ductility to least: gold, silver, platinum, iron, nickel, copper, aluminium, zinc, tin, and lead. The malleability of the same metals are then ranked from greatest to least: gold, silver, lead, copper, aluminium, tin, platinum, zinc, iron, and nickel. The ductility of steel varies depending on the alloying constituents. Increasing levels of carbon decreases ductility.

1.2 The Visual Form and The Graphic Design

The front and the back side of two rupees coins

The Shape

The old elven sided design was implemented only for two rupees coins, thus the shape of the coin could communicate the value. With the new circular design, it is really difficult to differentiate between one rupee and two rupee coins, as the coin diameter differs only by 2mm. One rupee coin is 25mm in diameter.

The Edge

The new coin has the uniform circular edge, but the old coin has non-uniform edge which gets thinner at the joint. This non-uniform edge makes the old design visually appealing.

Thickness 

I do not have the vernier caliper to measure the accurate thickness. Visually the old coin is more thicker than the new one. When compared with old one rupee and five rupee coins the two rupee coin can easily be figured out with blind fold.

Scripts

Both the new and the old coins has Devanagari and Latin script.

Design

This is where I see a design problem. If you look at old coin design (image 1 and 2), the one coin side establishes the value and the other side delivers a message about national integration. But in the new coin design there is no scope to do so.

Now why this is important?

Remember, at one point in time we used post stamps. Other than the currency value, post stamp delivers a very nice visual message. The message was about an event, country, prosperity, idols... good memories in short. Have a look at the Indian post stamps. Now with increased use of digital media and telecommunication, we do not use post or very few people use it. In such situation coins can do the similar job and help spread the good message, which the old design was delivering. I remember collecting such coins. With this new design, no more. There is no uniqueness in the design. The designer has ignored this important point.

using the coin

Here is a small video which I shot to illustrate the way we hold and use coin. This is not a comparison between US and Indian coins.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOeMMm-tHyQ&feature=channel_video_title]

What's next

As a designer, I just can not complain about things around but also need to provide an alternate solution, which is in on it's way. Yes, I am giving a shot at designing the coin/s. Shall post it once it is done. While designing I also need to consider the cost of minting the coins and the projected life of the coin. I noticed that the design on new coins is getting wiped out. Here I need some help, if any one of you can help me in this regard, that will be great.

By the way I am doing this design exercise for myself, there is no one involved other than me.

References