Owners of euro coin-operated machinery are finding an unwelcome foreign visitor in the coin boxes of their cigarette and gambling machines throughout the European Union - Thailand's 10-baht coin, which is mimicking the much-more valuable 2-euro coin.
Angry merchants in Europe have found that the Thai 10-baht coin can be used in at least some coin-operated machines accepting the 2-euro coin. That's a problem for owners of cigarette machines in Spain and gambling machines in Holland, for example, because the Thai coin is worth much less than what the euro coin is worth. A 10-baht coin is worth about 23 U.S. cents, while a 2-euro coin is worth approximately $1.80 in U.S. funds.
The problem is apparently caused by a similarity in size and configuration between the two ringed bimetallic coins, although their compositions are dissimilar.
The outer ring of the 2-euro coin is composed of copper-nickel, with the center portion being made of a clad composition of two outer layers of nickel-brass bonded to an inner layer of nickel. The 2-euro coin normally weighs 8.5 grams, is 2.20 millimeters thick and has a diameter of 25.75 millimeters, although as with any coin, the specifications of a particular piece may deviate slightly from the norm and still be considered within tolerance.
The 10-baht coin is also a ringed bimetallic piece, but with an outer ring composed of stainless steel and a center core made of aluminum-bronze. According to a Dutch institute called Technical Universety Delft, which tested the 10-baht coin and examples of 2-euro coins from seven different countries last year, the Thai coin weighs 8.45734 grams, is 1.95 millimeters thick and is 26.08 mm in diameter. The institute's test results were published Dec. 20 by a Dutch news program.
According to The National Business Review, a New Zealand publication, the use of 10-baht coins in vending machines as substitutes for 2-euro coins was first noticed in Spain at a bar near Barcelona. The owner found five 10-baht coins in a cigarette machine in his bar in late January.
According to the New Zealand publication, bar owner Alejandro Diaz ran tests after finding the five Thai coins. He found that the 10-baht coins mimicked 2-euro coins not only in his cigarette machine but in a slot machine in his bar as well.
The New Zealand magazine quotes Diaz as already being angry about being forced to adapt his equipment to accept the new euro coinage, which he said he was told were safe and counterfeit-proof. Euro coinage and paper money replaced traditional currencies in 12 European Union nations Jan. 1.
"So it turns out there is a coin that is identical, has a much lower value and is legal tender - that's the funniest part - in Thailand," The National Business Review quotes Diaz.
The improper use of the 10-baht coins in Europe could worsen in the weeks to come. The New Zealand magazine reports employees of banks and currency exchange counters in Thailand have witnessed increased demand for 10-baht coins since early January. The National Business Review quotes an employee at the Thai Military Bank booth at a Thai airport as saying: "Dozens of tourists, mostly Westerners, specifically asked for 10-baht coins. Some of them wanted as many as 50 coins."
The use of the 10-baht coins in Europe appears to be spreading. Martin Peeters of the Worldwide Bi-Metallic Collectors Club, author of a guide to ringed bimetallic coinage and who lives in Holland, told Coin World Jan. 30, "Yes, indeed, the 10 baht is used here in vending machines, gambling machines and parking machines."
A deputy chief of the Thailand Treasury Department sees the euro-baht confusion as a European Union problem, according to The National Business Review.
According to the Bangkok Post, 559 million 10-baht coins are in circulation in Thailand.
The 10-baht coin has existed in its current form much longer than the 2-euro coin. Thailand introduced the ringed bimetallic coin in 1988, although few of that year's coins entered circulation, making it something of a collector rarity. General circulation began in 1989, with the coin being produced in most years since then, according to The Standard Catalog of World Coins.
While the euro and baht are similar in weight, diameter and color, their designs are much different. The Thai coin depicts King Rama IX and a temple, with legends and dates in non-Western scrip. Various commemorative 10-baht coins have also been produced.
The standard reverse of the 2-euro coin depicts a map of the European Union and the legend 2 EURO, with the numeral 2 of a much larger size than the letters in EURO. Each European Union nation using the 2-euro coin has developed a unique obverse design reflecting the issuing nation's heritage.
James Benfield, executive director of the Coin Coalition, a group prompting use of a U.S. dollar coin, expressed surprise that two coins with such dissimilar compositions would work in the same coin-operated equipment. He said that a simple magnet, like those found in many U.S. coin-operated machines, would probably cause a coin with a stainless steel composition to be rejected.