How Do Money Counters Work?

by CyphSB - Updated September 26, 2017

What Are Money Counters?

Money counters are machines that allow users to confirm how many bills or coins exist in a given lot. In addition to counting, counters also check for counterfeit currency and alert users to remove the fake or bogus bills.

Developed in the 1920s, counters were originally employed in the Federal Reserve Bank to reduce errors and increase efficiency. These counters would stop once a set number of bills had been cycled, allowing users to mete out a predetermined volume of notes. In the 1980s, analog machines were improved upon with the implementation of microchip-driven high-speed counters that determine the amount and denominations of thousands of bills within shorter periods of time, with fake bills detected automatically.

Weight-based counting machines are typically smaller, and found in places like bank teller desks where space is tight. They rely on complicated algorithms to account for variances in note and coin weight and are usually used to verify the contents of a roll or stack of money.

Features and How They Work

Advanced counting machines often have a laundry list of features, including a variety of counting modes. These include the ability to identify and count mixed denominations, tally specific denominations, stop and remove suspect bills, count the total number of bills and handle bills in any condition, even if limp or folded. These features are made possible by using the latest technology, resulting in sophisticated counting machines that cost up to thousands of dollars. Counting machines with fewer features relying on simpler methods are relatively inexpensive—often costing under $100.

To use a counting machine, bills must be placed in the hopper to be counted. The machine then flips the bills behind a separator, as each note is moved it is tallied by an electronic or analog sensor that keeps track of how many bills have been cycled. In more sophisticated machines, unsorted bills are quickly scanned, allowing the denomination to be noted as the stack is processed. Some machines allow users to identify and remove counterfeit bills using either scanning or magnetic techniques. As the bills cycle the machine stops when it encounters an abnormal bill and allows the operator to remove the bill if necessary.

Once all the legitimate bills have cycled, most machines will provide a digital readout of the total denominations in the stack of bills. Advanced machines will aggregate the totals of all bills simultaneously using an onboard computer while less sophisticated machines must count denominations one at a time.

Coin Sorters

Coin sorters use simpler technology than most bill counters. Many supermarket and home machines use a vibrating platform to shuffle change down holes of varying sizes designed for each type of coin. The stacks of each type of coin are then automatically measured for height and weight to ensure no errors have been made or counterfeits accepted.

In the case of vending machine and change dispensers, a microprocessor loaded with software is used to sum up the total value of the coins. It then instructs the hardware to send voltage to a solenoid in the machine that dispenses the correct amount of change.

About the Author

Andrew Drummond has written for publications such as San Francisco magazine and Front Desk magazine as well as companies such as WebEx, Genesys, Juniper Networks, Inuit and more over the last 5 years. A graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, he majored in Advertising while receiving a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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