Slide Chart, UNICON Universal Currency Converter


This Universal Currency Converter is a plastic-covered paper holder that contains a plastic-covered paper core. The user slides the core to match a foreign currency to the U.S. dollar, given a known exchange rate, and then reads off conversions for other amounts of U.S. currency. The table thus enables the user to avoid multiplication.

The back of the Unicon contains metric to common measure conversion tables for distances, liquid volumes, weights, temperature, time zones, and “unofficial” exchange rates, as well as a 6-inch and 15 cm ruler. These rates have some historical interest for nations that no longer exist, such as West Germany and the U.S.S.R.; for currencies that have been merged, such as that of various Eurpoean nations; and for changes in exchange rates. A sheet of instructions for the Unicon also has another table of weights and measures and a list of equivalent clothing sizes. The instrument and its instructions are stored in a plastic case, meant to be carried in the pocket of travelers.

A mark at the top front of the object reads: UNICON (/) UNIVERSAL CURRENCY CONVERTER (/) INSTANT * ACCURATE * ALWAYS CURRENT (/) CONVERTS ANY FOREIGN CURRENCY. A mark on the bottom front reads: Patent Pending Peoria Journal Star, Inc. 1971.

This example of the Unicon was given to the Museum by one of its inventors, David J. Schlink (1931–2010). Schlink and Walter K. Schwarz received U.S.Patent No. 3,680,775 on 1 August 1972 for the Unicon. They assigned the patent to Schlink’s employer, The Peoria Journal Star, Inc., of Peoria, Illinois. Under the name PJS Enterprises, the newspaper manufactured and sold the Unicon for $3.95 retail. Distribution soon was taken over by Unicon Enterprises of Peoria, which sold a later version of the instrument, the Unicon II, as late as 1988. By this time, foreign travelers also were advised to take along electronic calculators for currency conversion.

Schlink wrote two books on currency conversion, Money Sense Overseas (or,Unicon I), which sold in 1984 for $4.50 (ISBN 0912327006) and Unicon II, which sold in 1983 for $4.95 (ISBN 0912327014). It is not clear why Unicon II was copyrighted before Unicon I.


Accession file.

W. K. Schwarz and D. J. Schlink, “Calculating Device,” U.S. Patent 3,680,775, August 1, 1972.

W. K. Schwarz and D. J. Schlink, “Calculating Device,” U.S. Patent 3,754,702, August 28, 1973.

W. K. Schwarz and D. J. Schlink, “Conversion Calculator,” U.S. Design Patent 231,796, June 11, 1974.

“Travel Log,” Boston Globe, January 14, 1973, p. A25.

Tom Grimm, “How to Avoid Currency Problems When Overseas,” Chicago Tribune, June 25, 1975, p. B14.

Betty Lukas, “Purse Is the Traveler’s Best Friend,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1985, p. G19.

Jonathan Storm, “Adventurous Tours for Women over 30,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 29, 1988.

“David J. Schlink,” Peoria Journal Star, September 24, 2010.

Date Made: ca 1971

Maker: Peoria Journal Star

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Illinois, Peoria

Subject: MathematicsNumismatics


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Mathematical Charts and Tables, Science & Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of David J. Schlink

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: MA.333847Catalog Number: 333847Accession Number: 303772

Object Name: mathematical table

Physical Description: plastic (overall material)paper (overall material)Measurements: overall: .4 cm x 16.6 cm x 8 cm; 5/32 in x 6 17/32 in x 3 5/32 in


Record Id: nmah_1215047

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