Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coins In The Past

. Thursday, July 17, 2008

By their very nature, coins are highly durable, convenient, mobile and accurate modes of payment and investments. Commemorative coins are struck from precious metals, i.e. Platinum, Gold, Silver, and their alloys, and non precious metals i.e. Copper, Nickel. To be legal tender, all commemorative coins must possess the following essential properties:
• The precious metal of every commemorative coin must be accurate.
• Commemorative coins must be precisely weighed and their monetary value guaranteed by the issuing authority (usually the ruling monarchy or government).
• The issue must be limited. The smaller the worldwidemintage the rarer the coin, and in consequence the potential to increase in value. In accordance with these demands, minting techniques have traditionally been highly precise and guarded functions commissioned and governed by a country’s reigning authorities and a few hand selected mints in the world.

From the outset, minting techniques consisted of two main areas of work – the production of suitable blanks of a defined composition and exact weight; and the production of the tools for striking the coins. Principally, nothing has changed in this regard from theearliest minting techniques till today. Only the methodshave improved with industrialisation and technical

The Genesis of Coins; A Historical Approach

It is believed that the first coins were struck during the 7th century BC by theLydians in Asia Minor. These were made from coin blanks of a consistent composition of gold/silver alloy called electrum. For this purpose, molten electrum was poured into suitable forms. They started with simple moulds. Later, there was a transition tomore complicated moulds which made the production of a larger number at any one time possible.

For many centuries, this kind of production of round coin blanks remained basically unaltered until the growing economy in Europe during the 16th century saw a dramatic increase in demand for coins. Minting techniquestherefore were industrialised to meet this demand.

From small hand driven presses, the development passed via falling hammerpresses and water driven hammer works to spindle presses. As early as 1600, Nicolo Grosso wielded a spindle press in Florence, with which he punched coin blanks from rolled sheets of precious metals. This technique is still in use today, albeit with high capacity punching presses which produce large numbers of blanks with one stroke. The permanent refinement of analysis and measuring techniques, the accuracy of weight and alloy composition were vastly improved.

Even from the earliest times, coins were struck with 2 coining dies – a lower die depicting the coin in a negative form, and a similar upper die. The coin blank was then placed between these two dies and the upper die struck with a heavy hammer, thus rendering a positive image on the blank. The hammer method was wielded a long way into the Middle Ages. Even now we occasionally speak of coins being struck.
The start of the Industrial Age (late 18th – early 19th century) broughta plethora of various minting machinery which culminated when Diedrich Uhlhorn invented the “toggle press”. The principle of the “toggle press” which allows several hundred circulation coins to be produced per minute lives on in today’s modern mechanical mints.


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