What Is a Coin?
A coin is a piece of metal with a specific value that is used as money. Its value comes from its gold, silver or platinum content, and it may also have an intrinsic or historic value. The value of a bullion coin depends on its condition, specific historical significance and rarity. Its face value, which is set by government fiat rather than by market exchange, is usually significantly less than the value of the metal.
A modern coin typically has a circular, two-dimensional body with raised edges, known as the planchet. It is produced from a solid metal, often copper but sometimes silver or gold. The coin may have one or more legends, a date and other identifying information. It may also feature a privy mark, mintmark or other decorative element. In addition, the coin’s surface is usually metallurgical plated with different metals to produce various colors and finishes.
Modern coins can have a wide range of metals and denominations. Silver, for example, has been a popular choice because it is durable, easily machined and readily accepted by consumers. Gold has also been used for coins, particularly in ancient times, although this is rarely the case nowadays.
Coins must be made of a valuable material and trade for close to their pure metal value in order to be considered valid currency. They must also be uniformly sized, weighed and of a standardized quality and purity to ensure that they can be used across large geographic areas. This is why the gold dinars of Philip II of Macedon and other ancient coinage were so popular throughout his empire, as are the pound notes of the United Kingdom and the American dollar in the modern world.
In the past, rare or valuable coins were often minted as collectibles and kept out of circulation. Such coins are still found in museum collections, and today, rare or valuable old coins can be purchased by collectors.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how coins move through the economy, with dimes gathering dust on dressers and quarters languishing in drawers rather than being dropped into change sorters in bank lobbies or washing machine coin slides at laundromats. Consumers can help the coin flow by using exact change, depositing their coins at banks and using them to pay for goods and services.
The minting of coins begins with round discs called blanks that are punched out from a sheet of metal and then heated to make them softer. They are then washed and fed into a press that stamps them with the coin’s design. The finished coins are inspected, weighed and put into bags to be shipped to Federal Reserve banks nationwide. They will stay in circulation for around 30 years until they’re too worn to be useful. Then they are removed by the Federal Reserve and melted down for other uses. Some of these other uses include making jewelry, sand castings and building materials.