How Do Vending Machines Count Money?

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Do you wonder how vending machines can tell between a €10 and €20 bill? The oldest automats can easily detect coins, but what of notes? In the past, the machine needed exact change before it drops the item. Today, there are many smart vendors that count money accurately and can even make a change.

While it may seem like magic, a vending machine has a simple mechanism. If you want to own one, you need to learn how it works. Here’s a guide to help you picture out how the vendor tells the money part and counts it.

How vending machines count coins

Did you know that the oldest form of a vendor was invented in the 1st century A.D.? Heron of Alexandria created a machine that prevented churchgoers from spilling too much holy water. It dispensed water after tossing a token and pressing down the lever. This action opened the spigot, which let the liquid flow.

In the 1880s, the design became far more advanced than the first machine. Developers used better technologies to tally coins inserted into the slot. Essentially, vending machines can distinguish various coins efficiently. Older versions can handle counting coins with ease, and here’s why.

  • Coins are different in size. For example, the €2 coin is larger than the €1 coin.
  • Coins have varying thicknesses. The €1 is slightly thicker (2.33mm) than the €2 coin (2.20mm).
  • Some machines can tell the type of metal used on the coin.
  • Coins have corresponding ridges, which some vendors can read.

Once you put the coin in, the slot tilts to direct the coin into holes that are slightly bigger than the coin. The machine uses electromagnets to analyze the coin diameter and thickness. Upgraded models can identify the metal type used on the coin, too. Then, a light or mechanical switch counts every coin.

How vending machines count banknotes

Most vendors today can accept notes as payment. Typically, it uses optical scanners to check the amount. In the 1960s, vending machines read the iron on the ink. However, it led to bogus bills that used magnetic ink. To solve this problem, developers enhanced the scanner in the 90s.

Once you slip the note, internal lights illuminate the bill’s features. A digital camera scans the money and identifies unique elements such as the banknote stripe. Using UV light, it scans the security messages. Then, it confirms if the ink on the note is valid or not.

Advanced models can detect the magnetic ink and image of the specific bill. Some vendors can also tell the material used. For euros, the crisp and firm note consists of pure cotton. Still, other automats can measure the size of the note like it would a coin.

In short, the machine accepts the bill if the security features are real and valid. It can discern bills by the unique design of each denomination. From there, it can count the total amount you put into the slot.


Vending machines are now better than ever thanks to technology. You can trust the accuracy of our vendors at if you’re thinking of owning or renting. We can provide a suitable machine you prefer. With us, you can start earning passive income 24/7!

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