Front Page Titles (by Subject) The best Form for Coins. - Money and the Mechanism of Exchange
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
The best Form for Coins. - William Stanley Jevons, Money and the Mechanism of Exchange 
Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1876).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The best Form for Coins.
It is a matter of considerable importance to devise the best possible form for coins, and the best mode of striking them. The use of money creates, as it were, an artificial crime of false coining, and so great is the temptation to engage in this illicit art that no penalty is sufficient to repress it, as the experience of two thousand years sufficiently proves. Thousands of persons have suffered death, and all the penalties of treason have been enforced without effect. Ruding is then unquestionably right in saying, that our efforts should be directed not so much to the punishment of the crime, as to its prevention by improvements in the art of coining. We must strike our coins so perfectly that successful imitation or alteration shall be out of the question.
There are four principal objects at which we should aim in deciding upon the exact design for a coin.
For the prevention of counterfeiting, our principal resource is to render the mechanical execution of the piece as perfect as possible, and to strike it in a way which can only be accomplished with the aid of elaborate machinery. When all coins were made by casting, the false coiner could work almost as skilfully as the moneyer. Hence, in the Roman Empire, it was difficult to distinguish between true and false coin. Hammered money was a great improvement on moulded money, and milled money on hammered money. The introduction of the steam coining press by Boulton and Watt was the next great improvement; and the knee-joint press of Ulhorn and Thonnelier, now used in nearly all mints, except that on Tower Hill, forms the last advance in the mechanism for striking coin.
The utmost attention ought to be paid to the perfect execution of the milling, legend, or other design, impressed upon the edge of modern coins. This serves at once to prevent clipping or tampering with the coin, and to baffle the skill of the counterfeiter. The coins of ancient nations were issued with rough, unstamped edges, and the first coin marked with a legend on the edge was a silver coin of Charles IX. of France, issued in the year 1573. The English coinage was first grained or marked on the edge in 1658 or 1662, when the use of the mill and screw was finally established in the mint. All the larger coins now issued from the English, and, indeed, from most other mints, bear a milled or serrated edge, produced by ridges on the internal surface of the collar which holds the coin when being struck between the two dies. These collars are difficult to make, and useless when made except in the coining-press, and the counterfeiter cannot imitate the milling by hand work, it being almost impossible to use a file with sufficient regularity.
The French five-franc pieces bear a legend on the edge in raised letters, the words being "Dieu protége la France." Such raised letters are quite beyond the art of the counterfeiter. The English crown has a legend, "Decus et Tutamen," and the year of the reign in incised letters, which could obviously be imitated by the use of punches. The new German gold coins are issued with smooth edges, the ten-mark piece having only a few slight incised marks, and the twenty-mark piece bearing the legend, "Gott mit uns," in faint letters; this is surely a far less satisfactory protection than the milled edge adopted in most other mints. It may be worthy of inquiry, whether the milled edge might not be combined with a legend or other design in relief, so as to render imitation still more difficult. One or two centuries ago, silver coins used to have a kind of ornamental beading on the edge. Elaborate patterns, produced by machinery with perfect regularity, and altogether incapable of imitation by hand, might now be substituted.