What do you want to do?
There are a number of different types of products to accept and or dispense coins, if you want to accept coins only then a coin acceptor will be suitable, these may be called different names by different manufacturers, coin selectors / coin acceptors / coin validators but all refer to the same type of device. If you want to give change then a change-giver or a coin acceptor with separate pay-out hoppers could be suitable.
We are only looking at electronic coin acceptors here, mechanical coin acceptors are available if required but will not have the level of sophistication of electronic acceptors.
What does a coin acceptor do?
These devices will accept coins and validate their authenticity very quickly by comparing the physical properties of the coin against known characteristics of acceptable coins. The detector evaluates the coin based on its weight, size, magnetism and using optics to match the image to a pre-defined list, or test the coin's "metallic signature" based on its alloy composition.
Once validated the coin acceptor will then send an appropriate electrical signal via its output connection to the host machine.
What should I consider when choosing a coin acceptor?
Coin acceptors are available in two form factors, 3.5" in diameter are the more compact size that will provide excellent reliability where space is limited. Coins will normally be validated and then fall into a cash box that is not supplied with the acceptor, although some models will have optional sorting methods. The larger 5" version will have the same functionality as the smaller one but have more routing options for sending the coins to different locations, so the coins exit the bottom of the acceptor in a pre-defined slot, usually there are four or six sorting directions, these acceptors would typically be used when coin hoppers are being used.
Normal protocols used by coin acceptors are Parallel, ccTalk / MDB, direct USB connection is also available on some models, cabling will usually be extra or supplied by the customer.
Coin acceptance rate
As well as understanding the acceptance level vs rejected coins it would be good to find out the speed with which coins can be accepted, some acceptors are especially quick at accepting which may be important in some applications, e.g. gaming.
Coin insertion / rejection position
There are many different directions a coin can be accepted and rejected by the acceptor, e.g. top entry & front exit, front entry & bottom exit etc, ensure the direction of entry / exit you require is supported.
Coin acceptors can be supplied with a faceplate for mounting directly onto a surface, faceplates vary in size and material, i.e. plastic or metal, the other option is chassis mount so without faceplate, these models will be mounted behind the surface in a chassis and will be suitable where other accessories are used for routing or holding coins in escrow.
Other factors to be considered
Each currency will need to have its own software (called a coinset) to accept the coins within that currency, check the currency you want to accept is supported by the manufacturer and the individual coins are part of the coinset, some low value coins may not be supported in all currencies. Check also for unusually sized coins, some acceptors may not be able to accept these.
If a new coin is released for the currency you are accepting the coin acceptor will need updating, many manufacturers will charge for the new coinset file and likely you will need a programming cable and / or special software to re-programme the unit, it may be worth buying any supporting tools like this at the start or you can send units back for update as the programming tools can be expensive.
A complete chassis system is available on some acceptors, this has a metal chassis to house the coin acceptor, a motor reject to open the door of the coin acceptor to clear jammed coins, an anti-pin to stop unwanted foreign objects being inserted into the mouth of the acceptor and an escrow to hold inserted coins whilst the transaction is finalised.
If you want to accept coins and give change then there are two options