How Coins Are Made and Sold

Coin currency

Coins have been used as currency for thousands of years. Their value comes from their metal content, but they also carry a numismatic value, which is derived from the design and history of the coin. Numismatics is the study of coins and paper money, and collecting them can be a rewarding hobby.

In the United States, there are four types of circulating coins: quarters (25 cents), dimes (10 cents), nickels (5 cents) and pennies (1 cent). In addition to the common circulating coin denominations, the U.S. Mint produces bullion and commemorative coins as well.

Until recently, most coins were made of precious metals like silver and gold. However, it was very difficult to produce enough coins of these materials because they are rare and expensive. To solve this problem, monarchs and mints over the centuries have diluted their coins by replacing a fraction of the precious metal with a cheaper base metal such as copper or nickel. This reduction in the intrinsic value of a coin, known as debasement, makes it possible to create more coins than would otherwise be possible using only precious metals.

The process by which coins are minted is a fascinating one. The Mint starts with coils of metal 1,500 feet long that are created to the proper specifications for each coin denomination. The coils are fed through a machine that straightens the metal and then into a blanking press, which punches out circular pieces of metal that have the same diameter as a finished coin. The blanks are then transported to a machine that strikes the obverse and reverse dies to create the coin’s design. Each coin requires 35 to 100 metric tons of pressure for this strike.

Once the obverse and reverse dies have been struck, the blanks are punched again to create the coin’s edge. The edge of the coin is called the exergue and may contain a mint mark, privy mark or some other decorative or informative design element. The coin is then rolled to give it its final shape and size, before being packaged for distribution by the Mint.

The best way to improve your chances of finding a valuable coin in a roll is to look through many rolls. The more you search, the better your odds of finding a coin that’s worth a substantial profit. A former coin roll hunter who requested not to be identified by name told CNBC Make It that he recommends searching for halves, because they are usually more valuable than single coins. Today, a pre-1965 half dollar (90% silver) is worth about $6 and a half-dollar dated anywhere from 1965 to 1970 (40% silver) is worth about $2.50, depending on current silver prices.