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Why Do Coins Have So Many Ridges?

Updated May 17, 2024
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Have you ever noticed the ridges on the edges of coins? They may be patterned or smooth, or a combination of both. Some may include lettering. In the United States, coins have “reeded” edges, often referred to as “ridged” or “grooved,” intended to prevent coin clipping and counterfeiting.

For centuries, coins were made of precious gold and silver. Criminals would shave away small amounts of silver and gold in a process called clipping. They would then try to sell the metal again or remelt it into another coin. Adding reeded edges helped keep people honest.

Although today's coins don't contain any precious metals, the ridges have remained. Interestingly, dimes have 118 reeded edges, quarters have 119, half dollars have 150, dollar coins have 198, and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins have 133. Nickels and pennies don’t have these edges because their composition of inexpensive metals made it unlikely for anyone to bother tampering with them.

Spare a thought for spare change:

  • In 1792, the first minting facility was built at the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Its first batch of circulating coins was produced the following March, consisting of 11,178 copper pennies.

  • In 1794, the first dollar coin was composed of 89.25% silver and 10.75% copper. Silver dollars contained approximately a dollar’s worth of silver.

  • The first historical figure (and the first U.S. president) to appear on a regular-issue American coin was Abraham Lincoln in 1909.

  • Before police took on the job, records show that a dog was purchased for $3 to guard and protect the Mint during its early years in Philadelphia.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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