The History of Coin Currency

In the United States, people tend to keep a lot of change from their everyday purchases. This accumulated change can build up in piggy banks, jars, junk drawers and more. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this slowed down coin circulation, which is slowly picking up now that the crisis has passed. Putting this coins back into use can help your savings and checking accounts grow, so it is a good idea to cash in your change as often as you can.

Coins have been used as money for a long time, but paper currency came into widespread use in the 1700s with the introduction of the United States dollar. The two types of currency differ significantly in their physical characteristics, which affect convenience and security of use and storage. Coin is usually smaller, heavier, and more durable than paper money, but it can also be less resistant to wear and tear, water, fire, and other elements.

The first coins were probably minted as tokens by individuals and merchants, and they were later adopted by the Lydian state. Many Lydian coins have a so-called legend, a sort of dedication or motto, such as the famous inscription Phanes in the coin from Ephesus: “PhAENOS EMI SHMA” (“I am the badge of Phanes”). The Lydian coin is thought to have influenced gold coins of the Gandharan kingdom and the Achaemenid Empire, though the latter were more likely to have been official state issues than private ones.

After the 1700s, both coin and paper money were widely used around the world. The main distinction between them is that coin is a tangible item made of a metal, while paper is essentially intangible and represents an account of transactions that can be easily forged or erased. Coin is usually more durable than paper, but it is harder to transport and store, especially in large quantities.

During the Cold War, governments used coin as a way to encourage spending and boost economies. A variety of different denominations of coins were minted in the Soviet Union, and even after the collapse of that country, countries continued to produce these denominations for many years. Coins of this era are often collectible, due to the unique history and design of these denominations.

Coins can be produced in a wide range of metals and shapes, depending on the region, the intended purpose, and the budget. A common type of coin is the bimetallic one, which contains two distinct metallic materials. Common circulating examples include the euro and the British PS1.

Some coin is minted specifically for general circulation, but some is minted as collector’s items or to serve other purposes. When financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, or savings and loans request currency from the Federal Reserve Banks, they receive a mix of recirculated coins and new coin. To learn more about the coin production process and its lifecycle, you can watch a video (Off-site) or visit the National Cash Product Office’s page.