Design is important with any product, but with wallets design is almost everything. It determines the aesthetics, usability, and comfort of the thing in question, and if you get all those things right, it’s really hard to make a bad wallet. Case in point: this £59 ($80) Compact Coin wallet from a small English company named Nodus. Its name is a little misleading, though, as it can only fit a few coins and its greatest usefulness is for someone like me, richer on contactless cards than nickel-based legal tender.
Like the Waterfield Finn Access Wallet that I reviewed a couple of months ago, the Compact Coin has RFID shielding, which is simply a barrier for wireless transmission that helps me keep one set of payment cards insulated on the inside and just one card, typically my travel pass, usable on the outside. The Compact Coin also has a zipper and the same basic layout as the Finn Access, but it slims everything down and elevates the quality of design a little bit higher. I’ve been using it for the past month and a half, and I have to say it’s grown to become my new favorite wallet: fitting perhaps slightly less than my previous one, but doing it in finer style and without bulging out my jeans pocket as much.
I’m a sucker for a good origin story, and Nodus is an endearing example of a couple of young product designers getting their heads together and starting a business from scratch. Having begun with a Kickstarter campaign for an iPhone case in 2013, they quickly expanded to making wallets too, and the Compact Coin is their latest product, launched without any crowdfunding help. They use only the good kinds of leather — full grain and top grain, vegetable-tanned for a more eco-friendly coloring — and they sweat the little details like the subtly debossed octopus logo. I love the feel and texture of the full-grain Compact Coin wallet, which is starting to age handsomely at the edges. It also smells nice.
Despite the “coin” in the name of this wallet, I would absolutely not recommend it as a coin pouch. What makes it nominally coin-friendly is the zipper, which i find useful for a different reason. I use the tiny coin compartment inside to always carry an SD card with me, which is my fallback in the event that something malfunctions with my camera’s storage. In the middle of the wallet, I slot in a couple of notes of paper money and half a dozen business cards, and the third internal slot I populate with my ID and bank card. There’s enough space to jam as many as 17 credit cards in there, but this isn’t really the thing for people who like to carry a ton of paper or plastic with them. This wallet nudges you toward minimalism, and if you’re of the same mind, as I am, it’s a great fit.
The two outside pockets play host to my Oyster card for travelling around London and temporary things like notes and receipts. I find this arrangement to be a nice and streamlined approach to getting around London, and because everything’s safely zippered up, I have few worries about losing anything while moving around.
The RFID shielding on the Nodus Compact Coin, I’ve come to find, falls shy of being perfect. If I only have my Oyster card on the exterior and other contactless cards inside, the Oyster readers at underground stations will sometimes get confused. My workaround for this has been to insert a business card behind the travel card, increasing the distance and insulation from the stuff inside — that solves all card clash issues. It would also have been nice if both exterior pockets were RFID-shielded, however only one side is (the one without the octopus on it). Still, these are small failures in an otherwise very good design. Nodus tells me that it has listened to user feedback and reversed the direction of the zipper from the one I tested (which is pictured in this review): making the wallet safer by opening up the top rather than the side first.
The Compact Coin wallet isn’t cheap at $80, and it certainly isn’t ideal for everyone. It does a mediocre job of carrying coins, and you can’t stuff dozens of hundred-dollar bills inside it. But its transcendental quality is simply good design. It’s stitched together precisely, the zipper works with an unerring smoothness, and I’m left with the impression of real quality every time I pick it up and use it. For many people, that’s enough....Read more