What Is a Coin?

A coin is a small piece of metal that is used as money. It is made by melting and shaping a solid material into a round shape. Traditionally, coins have been made from precious metals. But recently, coins have also been made from base metals such as copper and nickel. The outer layer of a US dollar quarter, for example, is nickel and the inner filling is copper. The layers of metal make the coins durable. Historically, a coin’s value was determined by its metal content. This induced manipulations such as clipping the coins to remove some of the precious metal. Today, a coin’s value is mostly determined by its face (fiat) value, rather than its pure metal content.

The value of a coin can be affected by changes in the prices of raw materials such as silver and gold. In this case, the coin’s face value must increase to compensate for the higher price of the raw material. This is known as debasement. Debasement is sometimes done to make a coin physically harder and less likely to wear down, but it is more commonly used to profit from the difference between the coin’s metal value and its face value.

Unlike tokens, which are supported by blockchain networks but do not power them, coins are native to their respective blockchain systems and act as the currency of that system. They’re integral to the security of a blockchain network, and they incentivize participants’ good behavior. Consequently, coins are usually considered to be more stable and reliable than tokens.

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts often debate over the merits of coins versus tokens. Both assets serve an important purpose, but it’s crucial to understand the difference between them. While tokens allow users to vote in a cryptocurrency network’s governance or to denote storage capacity on a distributed file-sharing platform, coins are the native currencies of specific blockchains.

The side of a coin bearing the image of a monarch or other authority is called the obverse. The other side, which may carry various types of information, is called the reverse. The year of minting is typically shown on the obverse, although some Chinese coins, Canadian coins, the British 20p coin and the pre-1999 American quarter do not include this information. Some coins have an exergue, which is the space below a coin’s main design, and this can contain privy marks, mint marks, or other decorative or informative designs.