The Dutch government yesterday began circulating a commemorative coin that features a scannable QR code on one side and a 3D portrait of Queen Beatrix on the other. Scanning the QR code, one of those black-and-white squares that resemble Space Invaders, brings you to the website of the Royal Dutch Mint for a helter-skelter video tour of the building. The coins, available in silver-tone €5 and gold-tone €10 denominations, were minted in a limited run to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Mint building.

With recent news about virtual currencies like bitcoins and secure wireless payment systems activated by a wave of your mobile phone and chip-enabled European credit cards, the idea of embedding currency with extra information seemed inevitable. Will some coin of the future transmit its carrier’s GPS coordinates to government agencies? Will scanning a code on your money give you information about exchange rates or the historic figure pictured on it or how far the coin has traveled. In any event, phrases like ‘paper money’ and ‘unmarked bills’ are bound to become as obsolete as ‘floppy discs’ and ‘dial-up connection.’

Ann Shields is a senior online editor at