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Forum Spotlights Latest in Coin Technology

By Tom Michael

At the opening of the 16th Annual Technical Forum at the World Money Fair 2020 (from left): Dieter Merkel of Schuler Pressen, Albert Beck, WMF founder and honorary president, and Thomas Hogenkamp of Spaleck, each also Coin of the Year judges. (Photo by Andreas Schoelzel, courtesy of World Money Fair.)

The World Money Fair (WMF) 2020 was proud to host the 16th Annual Technical Forum on Jan. 30, 2020. Sponsored by the firms Agosi, Schuler and Spaleck, this event has grown from a small gathering of technical experts 16 years ago when the WMF was in Basel, Switzerland, to a stellar event gathering more than 400 people in Berlin at the Estrel Hotel and Convention Center.

Organized and moderated by Dieter Merkel of Schuler Pressen and Thomas Hogenkamp of Spaleck, this venue offers a platform for the presentation of 14 original research projects each year. Papers are reviewed and vetted by a committee to ensure that the research is original and provides sufficiently interesting data for this large and prestigious group.

Regarding the organizers, Barbara Balz, managing director of the WMF, had this to say in her written introduction to the event: “Let me also heap praise on Dieter Merkle and Thomas Hogenkamp, who have had a formative hand in writing the success story that is the Technical Forum. They are sure to again guide us through the proceedings with grace and charm.”

For this 16th Technical Forum, presentations were grouped into eight topical areas: minting, blank production, annealing, surface finishing, surface protection, inspection, automation and tool making. Within each topical area, from one to three papers were presented by their authors, with large graphics on several screens for the audience to follow. 

The tiny Einstein coin developed and struck by SwissMint measures just shy of 3mm in diameter and requires heavy magnification to view in detail. It set the world record for smallest coin. (Images courtesy SwissMint.)

After a pleasant and gracious introduction from Albert Beck, founder and honorary president of the WMF, this year’s program commenced with Marius Haldimann, director of the SwissMint. Haldimann’s presentation focused on the fascinating story of the SwissMint’s production of the world’s smallest coin at 2.96 mm and 0.063 grams (that’s 1/500 of an ounce). Denominated 1/4-franc, this tiny gold coin depicting Albert Einstein can only be properly viewed under magnification, a set-up that was available at the SwissMint booth at the fair.

The question-and-answer sessions tend to retain everyone’s attention, as additional information is often relayed and new thoughts explored. Notice here that the room remains fully packed during the first session Q&A.
(Photo by Andreas Schoelzel, courtesy of World Money Fair.)

With such intense and interesting new information, the moderators have wisely chosen to insert question-and-answer sessions after every five presentations. These blocks are followed by short breaks for the attendees to refresh, refuel and network, courtesy of the event sponsors, Agosi, Schuler and Spaleck. The question-and answer-sessions often bring out some of the most interesting small details of each presentation and allow attendees to focus attention on previous difficulties and the significance of these new procedures, methods and technologies.

The Royal Canadian Mint’s WWI Lest We Forget helmet coin begins with a small sheet of metal and ends as almost a piece of art. Check out the story of this coins development on our website or Facebook page. (Image courtesy Royal Canadian Mint.)

A second presentation I should note here came from Dr. Xianyao Li, chief technology officer of the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM). The title of Dr. Li’s lecture is “Make Impossible Possible – Customer Valued Coins by Innovation.” Focusing on some of the fascinating and lovely new coins from the RCM produced through the hard work and creative minds of their research and development department, Dr. Li’s talk detailed some of the challenges and accomplishments derived from production of the WWI “Lest We Forget” helmet coin and the multi-faceted high relief silver Animal Head issues.

Later during the WMF, we talked with Iain Brooks, senior manager of applied research at the RCM and got a chance to see these coins up close. At the mint’s booth, Brooks was able to better explain some of the processes his group goes through to develop ideas into realities. I was able to ask a few questions during the discussion and colleague Maggie Judkins recorded the conversation, a video which can be found on our Facebook page.

Both Haldimann and Li are Coin of the Year judges, a result of the helpful guidance of Technical Forum organizers Merkle and Hogenkamp, and others, who assisted me a few years ago in building a select panel of technical experts. We now have 16 highly respected coin industry technicians on the COTY judging panel, including Merkle and Hogenkamp, who also answered my call to elevate the expertise with which the COTY process evaluates coins. 

All 14 of the 16th Annual Technical Forum presentations can be reviewed on the World Money Fair website.

There are three coins in the Royal Canadian Mint’s Multifaceted Animal Head series: the Wolf coin, built with 435 polygons; the Grizzly Bear coin with 498 polygons; and the Lynx coin with 450 polygons. Rising about 6mm in relief, the wolf head really dazzles as its polygon surfaces reflect the light. (Image courtesy Royal Canadian Mint.)

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