How is money made?

The ways in which money has been made, and the materials used to make it, are an important part of the history of money. Making coins, paper money and plastic cards involves complex processes, different in each case.

How coins are made

Fragments of a stone mould and bronze knife money, Qi state, Shandong province, north-eastern China

Coins have nearly always been made of metal since their development in the seventh century BC. Metal-working demands considerable skill and technology. The metal has to be extracted from its natural state, often by mining, and then turned into the required form.

Making metal into coins is also complicated, both in design and production. Quality control and consistency are vital. Each coin has to be the same as the next, so that people accept that they are worth the same amount of money.

Iron coin die

The two most important methods of coin production are striking and casting. The Western tradition tended to strike coins between engraved dies, while the Chinese and Far Eastern tradition has, until the twentieth century, made coins by casting them in moulds.

Machine-made coins

Silver schaumunze of Sigismund III von Schrattenbach, archbishop of SalzburgDuring the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were dramatic changes in the ways money was made. New machines, including the screw-press and the first steam-powered machinery for striking coins, were introduced. To start with, however, these new methods were slower and less accurate than traditional hand-striking, and it took time to convince all mints to change over to machine-striking coins. The new machines hugely increased the numbers of coins which could be produced for circulation, to satisfy the increasing worldwide demand for coinage.

How paper money is made

The manufacture of banknotes plays an important role in allowing them to be used as money with confidence. Early banknotes were$A 10 note, Australia, AD 1988 black and white, but now almost all banknotes are brightly coloured, and feature sophisticated designs which make them recognisable as national currency as well as making them harder to counterfeit.

The threat of forgery is a constant problem, despite severe penalties, and new developments like the polymer banknotes pioneered by the Reserve Bank of Australia help to reduce the number of forgeries in circulation.

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Catalogue of Roman coins, £150.00

Catalogue of Roman coins, £150.00