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Perspectives of a coin.

Updated on July 8, 2016

Introduction

We have all seen a coin before, usually it is a round object that we carry in our pockets that has been given some sort of fractional monetary value by the government that runs the country in which we live. These small pieces of currency are commonly used in small transactions, and are perfect for making sure that we get the exact amount of money that we deserve from each and every purchase!

To most, a coin is valued at almost nothing; objects that are peered over day in and day out, with no thought as to their history, or beauty., but in reality a coin is so much more than what many people take it to be!

This article is going to discuss various aspects, and perspectives of coins, such as technical, cultural, and historical, and who they usually concern!

Source

What a coin technically is

According to the Webster dictionary there are multiple definitions of the word “coin”. Of the list of about four definitions, there are two that I find to be the most relevant to this article. The first one is “a small, flat, and usually round piece of metal issued by a government as money” and the other being “a usually flat piece of metal issued by governmental authority as money”. In this sense, a coin is a piece of money that is passed through multiple hands, a part of commercial exchange.

CULTURAL

To almost every culture, all throughout history coins are a part of their identity, because they display the various values, beliefs that a particular country has. Oftentimes, coins prominently display its rulers, on one side, and proudly displays various national symbols on the other as depicted in the images of eagles that are on coins originating from various nations below!


As much as coins display a nations culture, sometimes A nations culture effects the coinage of the entire world; a perfect example of this is the trade dollar! This coin came into existence, because of high volume of trade that went in and out of China. In Chinese culture, silver was a big deal, in part because the silver “Charlos Pesos” became the bases of the coins that circulated in their empire, which caused them to be fairly picky about the silver coins that they would accept in international commerce. This oftentimes, lead various nations to trade their coins for Mexican Pesos, which would reduce the profit margin that they would be able to make on the products, when they were resold. This, caused multiple large nations such as Britain, France, and the United States to produce a coin that is known as a “Trade Dollar” which got its name because of its intended use. Oftentimes, these coins are found with “chop marks”, which are Chinese stamps that merchants would place on these coins to ensure their silver content!

Drawing of an American Trade Dollar from 1873
Drawing of an American Trade Dollar from 1873 | Source

Physical

Oftentimes, coins are round, and fairly flat object; a description that bring a familiar image to many peoples mind of circulated coins in their mind, but not all coins are round!! Throughout history, coins have been produced in many different shapes, and sizes. By definition, a coin is an object that is assigned a monetary value by a government. So thus by this definition, a coin can be in any shape. Personally, my favorite odd shaped silver coin that is in the shape of Australian! These coins are specially produced for collectors, and display some of the awesome animals that are found in Australian! The animals that are on these coins, are depicted in their natural habitat; where the environment is colorized and the animal is not.

Historical

Coins have been major a part of every major nation, sense they were first minted around 600 BC in a small nation called Lydia. Coins, are objects that have traveled throughout history, and changed the world that they touched. A fascinating thing about coins, is that for the majority of world history, they were not a small fraction of the economy like they are today, they were the vast majority of it! In fact, in America Coins were backed by the precious metals that were composed of until recent times! (Except for the three cent silver piece, a subject for a later article). Large cents were large, because they were composed of one cent worth of copper, and silver coins were worth their face value in silver. Believe it or not, American dimes and quarters were composed of 90% silver and 10% copper until 1965, and half dollars were composed of 40% silver until 1970! In fact, paper notes were not produced and popularized by the federal government until the 1860s!

World War 2 and the changes that it brought to American coinage

A fascinating era were coins were changed due to historical events, was during the 1940s in World War Two During this time frame there were multiple changes to coin designs, that had not been attempted during any other time in American history! During this era, copper was needed to make bullet casings; which caused the mint to produce coins that were composed of zinc and coated in Steel, instead of the normal 95% copper and 5% zinc. In fact, the nickel was also changed during this time period! Nickels, were (and still are) composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel. During World War Two, this had to change as well because nickel was also needed for the war effort! During this time, the normal for nickels was changed to be 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese. At the time, the mint was planning to get rid of these coins after the war ended, so they put an enlarged mint mark on the back of the coin, which allowed them to be easily identified and taken out of circulation after the war was over, but they decided to keep them in circulation!

Steel wheat back cent from 1943
Steel wheat back cent from 1943 | Source

Peoples perspective: a majority of the population

I know this is a different perspective, but in reality a coin is nothing if people do not appreciate them! To the majority of the population, coins fill the need wherever small amounts of money is needed. This is vital for the economy, and for commerce, but unfortunately oftentimes coins are overlooked, and simply thrown in some sort of jar, to be forgotten about.

Peoples Perspective: a collector of coins

To a person such as myself, coins describe a much deeper meaning than simply their day to day uses! They describe historical events and eras, ways of life, and ideas! Coins are objects that have traveled through history, and touched many people’s lives, like no other object could! The largest factor that changes the average person’s viewpoint, into a collectors’ viewpoint, is a moment when a person obtains a coin that displays a much deeper meaning to them; oftentimes found in change. Pennies of the wheat back design (minted from 1909-1958) are the coins that most oftentimes spark this interest in people, as they display history, and are form an era that is long gone.! In the past, coins that were relatively old ere much easier to find, which explains why so many coin collectors are people that are older, and oftentimes started their collection before the prices of silver started to rise during the early 1960s, which caused many of the old coins, such as early barber dimes, to be taken out of circulation.

Peoples perspective: an investor

Weather if they want to admit it or not, just about everyone that collects coins wants to see some sort of a profit from them. One thing that I like about coins is that I can expect to see some sort of a profit from them in the future, and can sell them when I need to pay bills in college! Investors, take “rare” coins into a different perspective, one that mainly for profit. This is not a bad thing, as vast amounts of money has been made in coins before; but it is oftentimes sad to hear when an investor takes a wrong turn in the coin market, and purchases a coin that is fake, or over graded. The thing that many investors do not understand at first, is that coin collectors are very nit- picky about differences between coins, so therefore they have to be studied a lot in order to be understood, and if someone wants to make money in coins they have to be willing to put in the time to study them!

Conclusion

A coin can be described as many things, to many different people. Coins have many attributes about them that make them very fascinating, and will likely lead to many new coin collectors in the future! Despite the generalities stated above, the perspectives can vary widely, to an almost unimaginable extent! Nonetheless, coins are here to stay, and will continue to describe the world that they represent, and the world that is around them; attracting new coin collectors every day!

What area of coins do you find to be the most interesting?

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