A recent study conducted by Coinstar, Inc. indicates that, on average, each American household contains approximately $90 worth of loose change. One reason that change often remains in those households is that sorting and counting coins can be time-consuming. Using a coin sorter can simplify and speed this task. Although there are many commercial coin sorters available, thrifty consumers can create a custom homemade version using materials commonly found in many households.
Methods for Sorting Coins
Although there are many different coin sorting machines available, there are very few sorting methods. Vending machines for example, contain a device that measures the disturbance in the electromagnetic field that each type of coin makes. Different types of coins affect this field differently because each type has a different size and level of thickness. Most coin sorters, however, use the low-tech solution of using a motor to filter the coins through differently sized holes. American coinage is sufficiently different enough in size to make this a popular method for homemade coin sorters as well.
Creating a Homemade Coin Sorter
One simple homemade sorter can be created using shoe boxes. Cut 10 to15 non-overlapping, precisely-sized holes in the bottom of three of them so that when the box is shaken, smaller-sized coins (e.g., nickels, dimes and quarters) fall through the holes, leaving behind the larger-sized coins (e.g. quarters). For U.S. coins, draw holes that are 7/8 of an inch in diameter at the bottom of one box, holes that are ¾ of an inch in diameter at the bottom of the second box and holes that are 11/16 of an inch in the third. Cut holes out using a utility knife, then put the change in the box with the largest holes and shake it into the box that has next largest-sized holes. Sift the content of the third box into the fourth box, which should have no holes at the bottom. At the end, quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies should be in their own boxes. If you have coinage from a different country, simply vary the size of the holes and the number of boxes that you use.
To improve the basic design, review commercial products. For example, commercial products are usually made of durable material. Consider using durable plastic stacking trays instead of the shoe boxes. Use a drill and 11/16-inch, 7/8-inch and ¾-inch drill bits to create holes, then stack them in order, one on top of the other. Pour the coins into the top tray and shake the stack of boxes until the coins settle in the correct tray.