How Coins Are Made
Throughout history, coins have been prized. They have been used in trade and transactions, and are still essential to today’s economies. A coin is a small round piece of metal or plastic that is often issued by a government as a means of payment. In some cases, the coin has an image or text on it, which may reflect the power and wealth of a country or city.
The first known coins are believed to have been minted in the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor, around 2000 bc. The Lydians made coins from a natural alloy of gold and silver called electrum. The kings gradually changed their currency from the lumps of electrum into coins. The coin was stamped with official symbols.
Other ancient civilizations also developed coins, such as the kingdom of Loulan in China. In the third and fourth centuries, the quality of Roman coins began to decline. The coining authority could replace the precious metal content with a base metal, which reduces the intrinsic value of the coin. This resulted in inflation of the face value of circulation coins, occasionally lowering their value below the metal content. The coining authority could also strike more coins than they had the means to produce.
Early United States coins were characterized by their distinctive die pairings. These were often hand-punched. Earlier coins were struck before the introduction of a reducing lathe. In 1836, the lathe was replaced with a coin press.
Modern coins are usually manufactured from a base metal. They are shaped like a disc with a smooth background surface, and are usually rounded. They are backed by a government guarantee or fiat. In addition to displaying the denomination, the obverse of a coin often has a portrait of the person depicted. The reverse of the coin often has a bust of an authority. Other devices on a coin include images, inscriptions, and the mint date.
Proof versions of coins are struck at the United States Mint at West Point. They are struck at lower pressure, are hand-finished, and are inspected for imperfections. After striking, the blanks are annealed and softened. They are then restruck at least six times. In some cases, the leftovers from a blanking press are reused later.
Several countries also use coins as everyday money. These include the Republic of Mexico, which uses the silver dollar; Florence and Venice, which both use the gold ducat; and the gold sovereigns of Great Britain. Many of these coins are used as collectibles.
The term “mintmark” is important. It is the device that indicates where a coin was minted. Since 1990, the mintmark has been an integral part of the master die. Typically, a mintmark is found on the obverse, but there are instances where it is on the reverse. The United States Mint produces coins with various finishes, including the Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco mint marks.
Coins are valuable because they provide information about economic history and the political powers of nations. In addition, they are usually hoarded. Sometimes the public decides to melt down the coins for their own use. This can be a useful way to study national financial problems.