What is a Coin?

A coin is a piece of metal (or, occasionally, other materials) that has been certified by a set of marks as having an intrinsic value. It has traditionally been a unit of currency but is also commonly used as a collector’s item, a bartering tool, or even to play games. The first coins were created in ancient Lydia, a region of modern-day Turkey. These were made of a naturally occurring combination of silver and gold, known as electrum. The Lydians carved designs into their coins in order to make them distinguishable from other items they would be trading with.

During the Industrial Revolution, “milled coinage”, which refers to coins that are made using a machine, became mainstream. This was thanks to a man named Matthew Boulton and his Watt steam engine, which allowed people to produce much more coinage than they could by hand.

While the majority of coins are still minted of precious metals, rarer metals such as palladium and platinum have also been used in coinage. Additionally, there are some non-metallic coins made of wood, plastic, and tin that were once issued by state and local governments to use for tax payments or as change in small purchases. These are often called mill coins, but they were never officially minted.

Some coins are shaped in unique ways to commemorate events, regions or people. For example, Somalia once used a bi-metallic two dollar coin that was shaped like a guitar. The Canadian two dollar coin is shaped like a fan, and the US mint has issued coins that are shaped like snowmen, hearts and Christmas trees.

It’s important to cash in your change regularly so that you can earn some interest on it, or put it towards a bigger purchase. You can do this at most banks, which will usually charge a fee for their service. Alternatively, you can use coin-counting machines such as those found at supermarkets and laundromats.

Coins move from the Mint to banks, which then distribute them to businesses and consumers. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of change sat around in wallets and drawers rather than making its way into change jars at retailers and depositing in bank vaults.

As the COVID-19 pandemic ended, the Federal Reserve stepped up efforts to help get coins back into circulation. It announced a strategic allocation of coin inventories on June 11, capping coin orders and encouraging Federal Reserve banks and commercial banks to only order the amount they need for the near future. In addition, it encouraged businesses and consumers to help with the effort by using exact change for their purchases, donating coins to charities and using coin-counting services. It also encouraged the public to help by donating their coins to their local museums.