The currencies or coins are important factors associated with economic history, since their first production in the 7th century BC. These currencies take beautiful and distinct forms and engravings, each distinguishing a country, civilization, and history from one another. They are usually made of shiny and lustrous metals such as copper, gold, silver, and platinum. These currencies are manufactured by the government through what is known as the Ministry of Finance, in order to facilitate trade. In some countries, metal coins are the least valuable form of currency compared to paper money, and this depends on the value of the currency locally and internationally.
What are metal coins?
Metal coins are round pieces made of solid metals that are uniform in weight and produced in large quantities by the government to facilitate trade. They can be primarily used as a symbol of the legal currency for trade in a specific area, country, or region. Metal coins often contain images, numbers, or texts printed on one side that indicate the value and affiliation of the currency.
The difference between metal coins and digital currencies
Some people mistakenly believe that digital currencies are metal coins but stored electronically. This is because they appear and are promoted in forms resembling regular currencies. Therefore, we need to clarify the difference between them and digital currencies.
Metal coins are tangible currencies made of real metals and are legally circulated between individuals for purchasing and exchanging. Each region adheres to its own currency symbol. On the other hand, digital currencies are intangible virtual currencies available only in electronic transactions through dedicated digital wallets. Transactions are conducted online through secure and specialized networks, and one of their features is that they are a universal currency that does not represent a specific region. Anyone can trade them because they are not subject to the control of a central banking authority. Unlike regular money, virtual currencies rely on a credit system and may not be issued by a central bank or other banking regulatory body. Their value is derived from the underlying mechanism, such as mining in the case of cryptocurrencies, or the backing of the underlying asset.
How are metal coins manufactured
- The responsibility for manufacturing metal coins lies with a specialized industrial facility in each country called a mint. This facility is subject to specific laws in the country, overseen by economic authorities responsible for studying the costs and production fees of coins and banknotes.
- The manufacturing process of metal coins starts with the production of copper or steel metal sheets, which are either produced or imported from abroad. The metal sheets are then passed through machines to be stretched to the desired diameter. Afterwards, these sheets are passed through machines to clean them from previous industrial processes.
- The next stage is the minting process, where the metal sheets are punched into circular rings with a specific diameter using mechanical or steam-powered machines to obtain a large number of metal discs. The annealing process follows, which involves heating the metal to around 750 degrees Celsius (1400 degrees Fahrenheit) and then slowly cooling it with air. They are then washed to remove residues from the annealing process and dried.
- The metal discs undergo calibration and milling processes using special machines. Each coin must have a specific diameter and weight according to official standards, to be recognizable in coin-operated machines.
- These discs are coated with copper or nickel, depending on the currency. In the final stage, they pass through steam or mechanical press machines with molds on both sides that have specific shapes. The metal discs go through these molds to have the specified shapes engraved on them, such as the shape of the Sphinx on the Egyptian half-pound coin or the shape of Tutankhamun on the pound coin.
- Some currencies consist of two composite parts, such as the Egyptian pound, where one part is coated with copper and the other part is coated with nickel. Each part is manufactured using the previous process, and then they are glued together in the end.
History of metal coin manufacturing
Since the existence of humans, they have been using the concept of exchanging goods and services for something they need in return. The situation evolved, and ancient civilizations started using valuable metals such as gold, silver, and platinum in their trade, where the currency was a small circular ring with no specific shape. Its value varied depending on its weight and the type of metal used.
The production of metal coins began for the first time in the 7th century BC, with the establishment of the first minting facility. The first metal coin was minted in the Lydia Kingdom and was made of gold and silver. It was the only currency bearing a special symbol for the kingdom. It was distinguished by a roaring lion’s head on one of its faces, which enhanced the economic and political status of the kingdom. The production of metal coins then spread to Greece and other areas of the Mediterranean region, with each kingdom having its own distinctive currency. Metal coins and their minting appeared in China and then spread to Korea and Japan.
The evolution of metal coin manufacturing
Some of the ancient currencies, when they first appeared, were made of pure silver and pure gold, such as the silver dirham and the gold dinar at the beginning of the Islamic caliphate in the 7th century. They were manually made by striking the metal or pouring molten metal into shaping molds for the coins. After industrial development, mechanical machines such as mechanical presses and steam presses were used to produce thousands of metal coins in one minute. With the difference in economic conditions and the scarcity of metal resources such as gold, copper, silver, and tin, gold and silver coins were replaced with solid coins coated with copper and nickel. Minting facilities around the world still produce millions of gold and silver coins, but for investment purposes rather than popular circulation.
Can anyone manufacture metal coins by themselves?
Manufacturing metal coins outside a minting facility is called counterfeiting, and any manufactured coins, regardless of their accuracy and conformity, are considered counterfeit. Counterfeit coins pose a threat to the economy and financial policies of a country because metal coins are not subjected to verification when exchanged, making it easy to dispose of them without detection. However, in practical terms, manufacturing metal coins is very difficult, as they are minted with modern technological devices in the minting facility, and it is difficult to imitate them. Manual production results in loss to the maker due to the difficulty of production and construction costs, especially if the value of the manufactured currency is low. However, if similar technological devices to those used by the minting facility are used, it is possible to manufacture them.