Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do some coins have notched edges?” Good question. (OK, it’s a little “Franklin Mint” but it beats answering those inquiries about your odder, intimate acts. Seriously? We thought “Paying The Rent” was just what you did with all those fluted coins, mmmkay?)
Coins with notched edges are called “fluted”. Another term used frequently by coin collectors to refer to the process of fluting the coins is “reeding”.
For those of you who never noticed–when it comes to American coins—dimes, quarters and half dollars have notched edges (or are fluted). Pennies and nickels are not fluted.
Among other reasons, the government notched the edges of coins made out of gold and silver because criminals would shave the coins and sell the shavings. Our friends at History.com confirm the answer to this question hearkens back to “when the Coinage Act established the U.S. Mint” in 1792.
This same legislation reportedly “also specified that $10, $5 and $2.50 coins (known as eagles, half-eagles and quarter-eagles) were to be made of their face value in gold, while dollar, half-dollar, quarter-dollar, dime and half-dime coins were to be made of their value in silver. (Cent and half-cent coins were made of cheaper copper.)”
Unfortunately, they confirm that “would-be criminals saw they could make a good profit by filing shavings from the sides of gold and silver coins and selling the precious metal. Before the 18th-century was out, the U.S. Mint began adding ridges to the coins’ edges . . . in order to make it impossible to shave them down without the result being obvious.“
Once the Great Depression hit, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped the minting of gold coins. During the silver crisis in the 1960s the government decided to gradually phase out the use of silver as well.
While today’s common coins are no longer made with precious metals the ridges remain on dines, quarters, half dollars and even some dollar coins. The ridges aid in making the coins distinguishable from each other by feel and appearance.
It is also done for the sake of tradition. Finally, the fluting still serves to prevent counterfeiting.
Why do some coins have notched edges? Now you know.
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