Over the last few years, conversations in the numismatics would about the use of ever-improving optical and computer technology have been heated. Is it possible to create a machine that can accurately sort coins in a manner that is useful to collectors? Can machines be taught to spot and analyze aesthetic qualities of a coin, such as toning?
In short: yes.
For a better answer, allow us to introduce the numismatic world to our new achievement, simply called “The Machine.” The Machine was conceptualized by owner Tim Rathjen and built entirely in-house by a small team at The Stamp and Coin Place. Rathjen, a polymath with an eclectic interest in collectibles, firmly believes in the power of emerging technology to enrich and enhance even the most traditional of hobbies. The Machine is the product of years of study and experiments with ever-improving imaging technology.
You can read about the technical specs and how The Machine works on The Coin Blog, but here are a few of the big numbers. At average speed, The Machine can accurately grade and sort 3 coins per second, which comes out to 10,800 coins per hour, or 86,400 coins in one 8-hour workday. This incarnation of The Machine can accurately grade coins up to XF, and we anticipate that future versions will be able to do even more as we refine the technology.
We have taken the first step into a field that has been almost entirely theoretical until now: automatic computerized coin grading. The speculative coin grading technology of the future is here. Of course, it’s not perfect yet. No first attempt ever could be. We look forward to the challenges of creating even more accurate and capable Machines.
The big question of computerized grading still remains: will computers replace humans in evaluating coins? We can teach a computer to “see” like a human being, but we still cannot teach a computer to “feel” like a human. As long as a specific coin speaks to something in an individual collector, the human element will always be the most important one in coin collecting.