How Coins Are Made

A coin is a small piece of metal that is used as money. It is also a term for the act of coining, which means to create a word or phrase that was not previously in use. Jaron Lanier is often credited with coining the term “virtual reality” during the early stages of its development. The meaning of the phrase has expanded to include other technologies that use a computer or console to simulate an environment in which people can interact with digital characters.

A place where coins are made is called a mint. The name comes from the Latin moneta, which is derived from the name of the goddess Juno. The value of a coin is largely determined by the value of the metal it contains. In addition, the design and beauty of the coin may affect its value.

The first step in coin making is preparing the alloys. Pennies and nickels are made of accurate weighing and combined pure metals—copper, zinc, and nickel, respectively—that are melted in electric furnaces and poured into molds to form ingots. Ingots are then rolled to reduce them to strips of the exact thickness needed for coins. These are then cut into circular, plain-surfaced blanks, or dies, that are fed into presses to be struck.

Once struck, a coin passes through various processing steps before being placed in circulation or storage. Circulating coins are usually minted once, but uncirculated and proof coins are minted at least twice. Once a coin has been produced, it goes through an inspection process to ensure it meets quality standards. Once approved, it is packaged for distribution.

Many collectors specialize in a particular type of coin. A person who collects American coins, for instance, might focus on Indian-head pennies, Buffalo nickels, or Mercury dimes. Part of the pleasure in collecting is seeking rare or unusual examples of a specific coin type.

In most ages, coins were not only a medium of exchange but also a symbol of wealth and power. They were prized, frequently hoarded, and, when found, provide valuable information about past societies. The study of coins can reveal economic trends, indicate commercial connections, define territorial dominion, and more.

While any piece of metal can have a use value—for example, as a tool or implement—only coins have exchange value. A coin may also have intrinsic or memorial value, in which case it has both exchange and use value. A coin’s image is important, too; it serves to communicate that the coin has been issued by a recognized authority and has been minted with precious metals. This is the primary function of a coin’s symbolic design, which also serves to inspire loyalty and reverence in its owners.