What Is Coin Currency?

Coin currency is made up of a piece of metal or, rarely, some other material certified as having an intrinsic value and issued by a government to be used in trade. It supplanted in most areas of the world the old barter system and, until the emergence of paper money in medieval Europe and China, was the main medium of exchange. Although coins are less common today than bills of various denominations, they remain indispensable to international trade and commerce.

Coins are a fascinating window into the history of human societies and economies. Their design, content and minting were often driven by political, economic or social events. The fact that coins were usually hoarded, or even buried for safekeeping, makes them especially valuable as sources of evidence about past treasures. They also offer a glimpse into the way that wealth and power were reflected in coinage, and their distribution can help to define the physical extent of a city or nation’s territory, or to illustrate major commercial contacts.

Most circulating coins are made of copper, silver or gold. Historically, the gold and silver coins of the great kingdoms were considered especially valuable. The popularity of the uniform coinage of Philip II of Macedon, for example, testifies to the spread of his empire, and finds of Athenian and Corinthian silver in Greece and Magna Graecia are indicative of well-established trade links.

A coin’s design is usually a symbolic depiction of the reigning monarch or head of state, or an image of some other significant personage. The edge, which is typically smooth and flat, may contain legends of the date or mint name, and a privy mark, mint mark or other decorative device. The exergue is the space beneath the design, and may be left blank or contain additional information, such as the weight of the coin, its diameter, the type of metal it contains, or a symbol of national sovereignty.

Modern circulating coins are typically flat, but they can also be round, triangular or polygonal in shape. Some are bimetallic, with different metals forming distinct layers of the coin. They are produced in huge coils from which they are cut to the required size, then rolled into individual units.

The size and quality of a coin’s surface are important in determining its value. The condition of the coin’s surface is important, and it should be kept clean to avoid damage. Using mild soap and water is recommended, but brushes or rubbing can scratch the coin, while sharp changes in temperature or moisture can cause discoloration. In addition, rubbing can make it difficult to see the details of the coin’s surface.

The monetary value of coins is determined by supply and demand, and can be affected by the availability of other currencies or by changes in global economies and political events. The value of a collectible coin, on the other hand, is generally determined by its rarity, beauty or historical significance.