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Coin.  (1) An object created to pass for money – originally cast but later struck – with a design and inscription indicating authority and denomination. Coins are most often called by their denomination or their type; occasionally their name is a combination of both. With the continued use by many people, coins are often given nicknames or slang terms. An example: Lincoln head is a type of United States cent (denomination); it is often, but incorrectly called a penny (a slang term).

Because a coin's function is to circulate, it becomes worn or abraded (see abrasion). Thus coins appear in a wide range of abradedness (which numismatists call condition and the act of determining condition is called grading). A somewhat imprecise terminology exists to described various conditions. While condition affects the object's collector value, it does not lessen the function of a coin to circulate.

Coins are removed from circulation more so as souvenirs or collectible objects rather than their becoming unfit to circulate – worn so smooth they are not identifiable – (or, in extremely rare instances, being demonetized). Thus nations which issue coins are required to constantly replenish the stock of coins in circulation. Even so, coins far outlast paper money in their function as a medium of exchange.

Prior to the 20th century coins bore an intrinsic value close to their bullion value. Since 1920, when Great Britain went off the sterling standard, coins have taken on more of a token value in comparison to their face value. Following that, many coin-issuing countries have sought cheaper metal compositions in which to strike their circulating coins yet retain many of the beneficial factors of typical coinage metals (bronze, silver, gold).

The major article coins and coining in this book explores the history and technology of coins and coin making. Numerous articles herein cover the design of coins and the terms used in their describing and cataloging. The article on coin collecting covers the collecting aspect.


           Coin Characteristics          


  1)  Value (Denomination).              

  2)  Authority (Authentic).             

  3)  Image (National symbols).          

  4)  Nationality (Jurisdiction).        

  5)  Design (Devices).                 

  6)  Lettering (Inscriptions).          

  7)  Familarity (Recognition).          

  8)  Hardness (Permanence).             

  9)  Bilateral (Two-sidedness).         

 10)  Longevity (Long lasting).          

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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