What is a Coin?

Coin is a currency used to pay for goods and services. People have been using metal as a measure of value for thousands of years. Early coins were large and heavy, and they were usually made of bronze or silver. As time went by, people found it easier to handle small amounts of a particular metal and to establish relative values: so many weights of one type of metal for so much of another commodity. The result was the coin, which is still in use today.

Collecting coins is a pastime and a rewarding hobby. It has also been a lucrative investment, and a well-assembled collection can be an important source of income. The value of a coin depends on the amount and rarity of the metals in it, the beauty of its design, and its popularity with collectors. Coins can be new or old, foreign or domestic, and bullion or circulating coins. In the United States, a coin’s face value is always worth at least 1/100th of a United States dollar.

A coin is typically a circular piece of metal, with the name of the nation that issued it written on its obverse (colloquially known as heads). The reverse side, which features various types of designs, is called tails. The date of minting is usually shown on the obverse as well, although some Chinese coins, most Canadian coins, all pre-2008 British 20p coins, and the American quarter are exceptions.

The term coin is derived from the Latin word moneta, which was a name for the goddess Juno. The ancient Romans made coins of varying denominations throughout their empire, but the standard coinage that they produced, known as the denarius, served as a unit of currency that was accepted anywhere in the empire.

Modern coins are usually made of copper-zinc alloys. The alloy is melted in electric furnaces, poured into molds to form ingots, and then put into rolling mills to reduce them to strips of the proper thickness. The blanks are then fed into presses to cut them into the desired coin shape. The final coin may have a privy mark, mint mark, or other design feature.

In general, a coin’s value is not increased by cleaning it, especially with abrasive compounds. Rubbing a coin will remove surface dirt, but it can also cause the metal to thin or even break. The best way to clean a coin is to gently rub it with a soft cloth or tissue, avoiding the use of chemicals. The best-known coin-operated machines are video and pinball games, but many other types of machines accept coins.

The history of coins has been closely linked with the development of banking and money management. The first coins were metal disks bearing a certain amount of precious metal, which was used as a counterweight to balance scales. As the need to weigh items and transfer wealth grew, people began to make their own metal tokens. The use of a coin as a unit of payment has become a worldwide practice, and the study of coins can help illuminate economic history.