Why Do Some Coins Have Ridges Around the Edges?

Perhaps you noticed that United States dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and silver dollars have ridges, or grooves, around their edges. They were not put there for decoration, but had a very important purpose at one time in history.

During our country’s earlier years, all coins were made of gold or silver, and did not have ridges. Each coin’s value was based on the amount of gold or silver in it. For example, a $10 gold piece contained ten dollars worth of gold, and silver dimes contained ten cents worth of silver.

But some dishonest people sought to make an illegal profit from these coins. They filed off the edges and sold them for their value in gold or silver. The smaller-sized coin often went unnoticed, but this dishonest practice decreased the value of the original gold or silver coin.

To prevent this, the government began milling, or grooving, the edges so a coin could easily be identified if it was trimmed.

Coins today are no longer made of pure gold or silver, but the milled edges remain because people are accustomed to seeing them that way.

At the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, one single stamping machine can produce 10,000 coins every minute of every hour of every day of the week!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

20 thoughts on “Why Do Some Coins Have Ridges Around the Edges?”

  1. Ok, wat u say may b somewat true, but the reason they still have those edges is not because ppl r used to it, but because some ppl need it. Blind ppl that is. it’s how they can tell wat coinage they have. If u’ve ever seen Daredevil he folds his bills differently according to their worth, so he can find them later. same thing with coins, except it’s kinda hard to fold a coin a certain way :P. anyways, there’s the truth of it

  2. Different edge types on coins is also a very simple yet effective method of making currency easier to use by the blind. All of the new Euro coins were designed specifically with this in mind.

  3. It’s called inflation. It became too expensive to ACTUALLY use gold and silver. They started using substitutes (copper, zinc).

  4. It’s because the gold was in the middle and silver on the outside made it hard to tell how much gold was actually in the coin. People couldn’t see the thickness or quality of the gold in the middle of the coin, so they bit the edges of the coin to see how the newly scratched coin would shine in the light. Then the government stepped in and made ridges so people wouldn’t have to bite the coin. You probably seen people do this to gold coins in old movies. I think my conclusion is right, please prove me wrong. What do you think?

  5. Thanks Lacey. From your message I´m guessing you´re one of these “blind ppl”. You can get a braille keyboard you know, instead of just mashing the keyboard.

  6. Gold was used when the value of currency was tied to the value of gold, therefore inflation didn’t arise during what was known as ‘the gold standard’. The value of money only changed with the value of gold. Inflation started when we got rid of the link between gold and money, and used ‘fiat’ coins made of cheap valueless metals.

  7. Bite on a piece of gold and it will break your tooth. Gold nuggets when you take them out of the river are as hard as the rocks surrounding them. Gold is a soft metal and wears away with the sanding action of river gravel etc. The reason for the bite on gold is because after the ridges were put on gold coins theives started using German made drills (very small) to drill holes into the body of double eagles and repack with lead . This left the center of the coins soft and by bite you could detect the void or softness of impacted lead indicating a bad coin. Take 100 double eagles and you can easily drill out two ounces of gold without detection. A very good deal in todays world and that’s why the recall and melt down was a government mandate.Should you ever get a chance to buy one of those original double eagles, bite it first, if it tends to break your tooth ,it’s the real McCoy.

  8. You’re a teacher! Do you not realize that gold and silver are expensive and that new coins have to be made everyday?? Much easier and smarter to mass produce coins that are made of materials that are cheaper than the coin itself.

  9. I believe the accessibility of currency, to blind people, was written into UK law in the 1970’s. Every coin we have is a distinct size, shape and density for this purpose.

  10. Well, I always thought thats why coins historically became grooved at edges in the Old World. After all, Americans didn’t invent coins nor invented greed.

  11. I never really paid attention to the ridges around the coins. But an interesting piece of coin trivia. Thanks for posting.

  12. The previous question was not stupid… the answer was. So you think it is smart for people to trade in their valuable gold/silver to the government because its “expensive”. We are currently note holders, our currency is only backed by confidence in our government. Somehow everyone got duped into handing everything of value over to uncle sam. The question remains. why did society agree to trade precious metals for paper (cotten actually).

    Duh, lets make a deal. Ill trade you all of your money for grains of sand. Its very cheap to acquire so you will love it. But trust me, its worth as much as the cash you trade me.

  13. This practice of reeding a coins edges goes back to a time when coins were made of precious metal.
    More so with silver and gold coins than copper or bronze, people would shave a little bit of metal off each coin they handled.
    Over a short time they would have a pile of silver or gold shavings and the coins returned to circulation would be light, but still, usually accepted at face value.
    The ridges (known as REEDING) was one way to detect if the coin had been altered.
    Some coins also used edge lettering but this is a more expensive than reeding.

  14. gold is a soft metal. fake coins were made of iron. biting a coin indicated if the coin was real because a tooth would sink into gold but not iron.

  15. You BOZO! You really think the government made coins for blind people. Then why excactly is the keypad on a driveup ATM have “Brail Writting”??? Its not because blind people drive up to it!! It’s because that is the way the numbers were made in the first place.

  16. Really Kendall? ATM machines have braille on them for blind people. Braille was invented before an ATM. They didn’t put raised dots on the ATM for fun. It takes more time and money. Also, learn to spell “Braille”.

  17. The REAL reason that this was done was because the government would clip the coins as they would collect them going through the system. Today they simply print more and it has the same affect.

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