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The 500 Lire...



I'm still slowly working on getting my father-in-law's coins organized and set up the way I want but these got my attention in a good way - some Italian 500 lire coins.

It has "500" in braille in the legend / along the rim. The Italian 500 Lire, from what I read, was the first bimetallic coin and the first coin to feature braille.


Seeing this got me thinking about something I read years ago about the FED / BEP / the US government being sued on the basis that the currency in the US doesn't do enough to provide "access" to the currency for the blind - there was no way for a blind person to, without help, tell the difference between a $1 bill and a $100.

This was something I'd never given much thought to, but it does come up in a 1989 film my mother used to love called "Blind Fury." In the film a clerk at a store tries to cheat a blind man when he pays with a $100 bill by giving him low denomination bills in change - he's counting out in increments of $10 or $20 while audibly putting down $1 bills if I remember right.

The issue also comes up in a more subtle way in Ben Affleck's Daredevil - you see him pulling cash out of plastic containers marked with the denominations in braille. He folds the different denominations in different ways - presumably so he can tell them apart in his wallet.

Both of the above deal with currency - not coins. In the US I'd think coins would be easier based on different diameters and reeded vs plain edges on coins. I think the quarters and dimes still have rough edges where the penny and the golden dollars don't so in those cases touching the edge could help where diameters are close. (Is it bad that, as a coin collector, it has been quite a while since I handled much pocket change?)

I'd never thought of braille numerals on coins before seeing this - and they were doing it in Italy in the early 1980s - 7 years before "Blind Fury" released, before I was even born.

Side note, but, how sad for the Lire? In the late 19th century, 20 lire was about 0.1867 toz of gold. In 1931, 100 Lire was about 0.2546 toz of gold - about a 70% drop in the Lire in the aftermath of WWI? Just 60 years later this cheap little bimetallic was used to represent 500 Lire. Wow...



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