Ever wonder why the Government spends so much money on creating those intricate little ridges along the sides of a coin? Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to build a plain one? Of course, it would save some money like the case with every other detail on the coin. However, there is a particular reason for this extra effort.
The story goes back to 1792 when the Coinage Act specified that eagles, half eagles and quarter eagles ($10, $5 and $2.50 coins respectively) would be made of their face value in gold. The dollar, half-dollar, quarter dollar, dime and half-dime coins were to be manufactured of their value in silver, while the cent and half-cent coins were to be made of cheaper copper.
The criminals of that time, soon realized that they could make a steady profit from these coins if they file the shavings from the sides of gold and silver coins and sell them as precious metals while using the coins again without ever getting caught. The same reason was why the U.S. Mint started to bear the ridges in a process called “reeding,” which made it impossible to shave along the edges without the result being visible. Along with that, the added detail of the reeded edges made the coin design appear more intricate.
Although none of the U.S. Mints today are made of gold or silver, thanks to an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression; you would still find the ridges at least on half-dollars, quarters, dimes, and some dollar coins, keeping up with the tradition. These ridges also serve the purpose of making the coins distinguishable by touch, which helps visually-impaired to use them without any problems in differentiating between similar sized coins like the dime and the penny.
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