Making an arcade machine accept bottle caps as currency

We got an interesting brief recently from our friends at Badaboom. They wanted to convert some sort of arcade machine to accept bottle caps rather than coins as currency.

Various ideas were discussed for what that machine might be, and in the end they settled on “The Claw!!!” as it shall ever be known to anyone who has watched Toy Story.

The brief to me was quite straightforward: convert the coin door and electronics to accept bottle caps, while retaining as many of the standard parts and features as possible.

This was a really fun project. In the process of building our solution, I learned loads about standard coin mechanisms and the protocols they use to communicate with arcade (or vending) machines.

My solution, which uses a micro-controller and some custom firmware, turned out pretty well, as it offers a plug-and-play replacement for the standard coin mech, meaning the whole thing can be reversed in future if required.

The only additional work was some metal fabrication: a custom coin door, and a chute to direct the bottle tops into the standard coin hopper.

The machine is now out on tour around the UK. Let me know if you see it!