Various Metals as Coins
Metals have always been an important commodity to the world. The discovery of Iron in ancient times launched nations into the forefront with metal weaponry and protective armor. The mixing of metals which created brass and bronze helped make copper a stronger metal for rigorous use that was even stronger than iron. Iron was more brittle but also easier to make since the iron element was much more plentiful than copper. Iron also quickly oxidizes in moist air and in water. Iron didnít really become as important of a metal until an alloy of iron and carbon was made and steel was discovered which generally was harder and much more resistant to corrosion. Steel also held a sharper edge longer than iron for war implements. Iron was used as a type of coinage in Africa amongst tribes. Steel coins were minted in Bolivia, France, and Italy. Stainless steel coinage was also produced but it is very difficult to impress an image into stainless steel thus not very cost effective. The metal properties of steel is also magnetic.
Brass ( a mixture of copper and zinc) and Bronze ( a mixture of copper and tin) is resistant to corrosion, extremely strong and easier to rework due to its low melting point. Copper has the uncanny ability to resist germs and even kill many germ causing bacteria due to its chemical nature to be caustic to such little creatures. Most copper currency used either a small amount of tin or zinc to make the copper coin more resistant to wear and tear even in ancient times. These discoveries have been passed down to our more modern times to serve as a basis of how coins are produced today.
Nickel was not commonly used in most early coinage because not much was known about the metal. It was often confused with silver because of its silvery properties. Nickel is magnetic in its pure form; however, used in most coinage mixed predominately with copper, it is not magnetic. The earliest known pure nickel coinage was minted in Switzerland in 1881. Before that time it has been used in a number of coins alloyed with copper starting in Belgium in 1860 and later adopted in the United States. The current American nickel has had the same composition or 75% copper and 25% nickel since 1865. Even though the nickel coins are mostly copper the nickel metal properties make the coin look silvery. It is also a very hard alloy resistant to wear and corrosion. Today, many coins are minted with a nickel or brass alloy. This is presently called fiat money. Fiat money has an actual metal value of less than the stated value of the coin with a few exceptions due to current inflationary prices of metals.
Silver is still used in coin production today only as a collectors or bullion item, not intended for circulation. In the past when many countries based their currency on the silver standard, the currency itself could stand on its own just because of its metal value in the marketplace. Any added value that particular currency maintained helped to strengthen the country and its economy like a personís good reputation with others. Silver being the most plentiful of the rare metals will always be the basis for monetary stability.
Gold is also used in coin production. Gold has been the capstone of currency possessing the highest value in any circulating coin for years. Yes, platinum coins were minted a few times in the past and continue to be minted as a bullion coin today, but gold is still the mainstay to the world as a solid circulating metal. No longer do nations produce gold coins for circulation, but with its past reputation as a circulating coin, gold is still the king. The properties of gold maintaining its luster, bright yellow in color and never corroding helps this metal to be desirable to everyone. Platinum is a silvery/grayish color and is not easily distinguishable compared to gold to the average person. If it isnít stamped platinum on the coin most people would not know for sure if it is this rare metal. Gold is much easier to identify..