Why are there ridges at edges of dimes and quarters?

Have you ever even stopped to think about why dimes and quarters (and fifty and one dollar coins) have ridges all around their edge? And, for that matter, why pennies and nickels do not?

Have you ever even stopped to think about why dimes and quarters (and fifty and one dollar coins) have ridges all around their edge?  And, for that matter, why pennies and nickels do not?

It is actually both fascinating and obvious when you think about it. 

First, pennies and nickels have always been made of inexpensive metal (hence the term "nickel" for a five cent piece). They have smooth edges.

Second, dimes and quarters were made largely of silver. They have ridged edges.   

Why?  Traditionally, whereever silver was used as coinage, there was a problem of people shaving metal off the edges of the coin, and thus devaluating the coin's worth.  Hence, the invention of the ribbed coin which would show immediately any attempt at shaving.

The edges on our coins are a reminder that these coins origninally had a high silver content, even though they do not now.

 

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to financial literacy and bank transparency. Since co-founding this website in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.

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Comments

  • Anonymous

    June 25, 2007

    Thanks for this. The history of currency is actually quite fascinating.

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