What ever the amount of cash on hand, it is probably a good thing to have smaller denominations instead of large ones. I’d rather have a wallet with 100 five dollar bills than five 100 dollar bills. During a time of crises when banks may be temporarily shuttered, those stores that are still open may not be able to make change. I’d rather pay $5 for a bottle of water instead of $100 because no one has change.

This can be taken to extremes. I would not like to carry all the cash in pennies, from both a bulk and weight perspective. One dime weighs so much less than ten pennies. Less bulk, too. But do two and a half dines take up less weight or space than a quarter? What are the weight and volume trade-offs between two quarters and a half dollar coin?

Below are three tables showing the dimensions of US, Canadian, and Euro coins. I put in leading zeros for uniform number widths. (If you have trouble lining up the columns, copy the table into your favorite text document and change the font to a mono-spaced one like Courier.)

The weight and volume for U.S. Coins (present day minting as of 2009) are:
Coin W(g) D(cm) H(cm) V(cm^3) W/$ V/$ $/Roll W/Roll V/Roll
USD$0.01 02.500 1.905 0.155 0.442 250.000 44.179 00.50 125.0 22.1
USD$0.05 05.000 2.121 0.195 0.689 100.000 13.780 02.00 200.0 27.6
USD$0.10 02.268 1.791 0.135 0.340 022.680 03.401 05.00 113.4 17.0
USD$0.25 05.670 2.426 0.175 0.809 022.680 03.236 10.00 226.8 32.4
USD$0.50 11.340 3.061 0.215 1.582 022.680 03.164 10.00 226.8 31.6
USD$1.00 08.100 2.650 0.200 1.103 008.100 01.103 25.00 202.5 27.6
Dimension Source: http://www.usmint.gov/about_the_mint/?action=coin_specifications

And if north of the border (present day minting as of 2009):
Coin W(g) D(cm) H(cm) V(cm^3) W/$ V/$ $/Roll W/Roll V/Roll
CAD$0.01 2.350 1.905 0.145 0.413 235.000 41.328 00.50 117.5 20.7
CAD$0.05 3.950 2.120 0.176 0.621 079.000 12.425 02.00 158.0 24.9
CAD$0.10 1.750 1.803 0.122 0.312 017.500 03.115 05.00 087.5 15.6
CAD$0.25 4.400 2.388 0.158 0.708 017.600 02.831 10.00 176.0 28.3
CAD$0.50 6.900 2.713 0.195 1.127 013.800 02.255 (See Note)
CAD$1.00 7.000 2.650 0.195 1.076 007.000 01.076 25.00 175.0 26.9
CAD$2.00 7.300 2.800 0.180 1.108 003.650 00.554 50.00 182.5 27.7
Dimension Source: http://www.mint.ca/store/mint/learn/circulation-currency-1100028
Note: The CAD$0.50 is not widely circulated and is not readily recognized by many merchants as valid. I can’t even find anyone who sells the Canadian half-dollar coin wrapper!

In Euro’s:
Coin W(g) D(cm) H(cm) V(cm^3) W/€ V/€ €/Roll W/Roll V/Roll
EUR€0.01 2.300 1.625 0.167 0.346 230.000 34.635 00.50 115.0 17.3
EUR€0.02 3.060 1.875 0.167 0.461 153.000 23.056 01.00 153.0 23.1
EUR€0.05 3.920 2.125 0.167 0.592 078.400 11.846 02.50 196.0 29.6
EUR€0.10 4.100 1.975 0.193 0.591 041.000 05.913 04.00 164.0 23.7
EUR€0.20 5.740 2.225 0.214 0.832 028.700 04.160 08.00 229.6 33.3
EUR€0.50 7.800 2.425 0.238 1.099 015.600 02.199 20.00 312.0 44.0
EUR€1.00 7.500 2.325 0.233 0.989 007.500 00.989 25.00 187.5 24.7
EUR€2.00 8.500 2.575 0.220 1.146 004.250 00.573 50.00 212.5 28.6
Dimension Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euro_coin

The weight and volume of the various coins per Euro or dollar (US or CA) is of primary import here. And now the answers are apparent to the questions I had asked:
– “Do two and a half dines take up less weight or space than a quarter?” They weight the same but dimes take up just a smidgen more space.
– “What are the weight and volume trade-offs between two quarters and a half dollar coin?” Same weight but the quarters also take up an even smaller, extra “smidge” of space than the half-dollar.

The smallest bank notes are USD$1.00, CAD$5.00, and EUR€5.00. With banknotes weighing a little more than one gram each, they are the hands down choice for carrying around (by weight alone). But if you have decided to take coins, which type of coin would you take?

In US coins, if I could only have one type of coin, I would choose dimes. Susan B. Anthony dollar coins would be the best of the coins by weight and volume, but dollar bills are even better. Dimes, quarters, and half-dollars are almost identical in weight and volume (per dollar), and are better than nickels or pennies. So I choose dimes. Having dimes allows me to make better change, and every vending machine I’m likely to use accepts dimes..

My second choice of coin would be quarters over half-dollars. The quarter can make better change than half-dollars (and when combined with dimes, I can make change down to five cent increments after the first quarter). Also, half-dollars are not as widely used, and some vending machines do not accept them.

In Canadian coins, my choice would be dimes and “loonies” (dollar coins). The rational is basically the same for US coins, but because the smallest Canadian banknote is five dollars, the dollar coin becomes the best choice.

As for Europe, it depends on the country(ies) you anticipate traveling through. Local preferences vary. For instance, Finland doesn’t even mint the one or two cent coins. But forced to choose, I’d probably mirror the Canadian choice.

So, for the purposes of the hypothetical that started this series of articles, I’d ideally go with one hundred in $5, one hundred in $1, and $140 in dimes and/or quarters – $640 of emergency cash.. But if that is in each of the four BOB/GOOD/GO Bags . . . I don’t know that this is realistic.

As I’ve said before, this is a work in progress . . .

D. Period – All rights reserved – 2009 – Use permitted by all only with attribution.

Originally posted on July 8, 2008 @ 7:03 pm