Change in Technology
Prior to the late 1700s, when Spanish Silver Dollars were monetized by the United States Mint, the "pieces of eight" were made by hand, often leading to imperfections in the coins. But the coin's value was determined by its weight, and the look of the coin was seemingly unimportant. Coin smiths often needed to clip small pieces from the edges of these coins to make certain that they were the correct weight. However, while coin smiths were clipping the edges of these coins to make them the proper weight, many merchants were clipping these Spanish coins and keeping the coin shavings for themselves. This resulted in great discrepancies in the size and shape of coins that were meant to have the same value.
Around the year 1732, a machine called the "screw press" was developed to help produce coins in a more consistent manner. This press assured a uniformity in the thickness and shape of coins, but also added an edge design to each coin, making any coin defacement extremely obvious.
With this background information in mind, invite students to research how a coin is currently produced at the United States Mint. Visit the H.I.P. Pocket Change Cartoon, "Birth of a Coin" to learn about the machines used today to make certain that all of the coins in your pocket are of equal weight and size. Once students have watched this cartoon, invite them to test their memory, as well as their ability to organize steps in an appropriate sequence by completing the Coin Creation worksheet.
The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education. These standards are listed below:
Social Studies Standards
Production, Distribution & Consumption: Students will explore how workers with different specialized jobs contribute to the production of American coins.
Science, Technology, & Society: Students will examine the way that the technology of coin manufacturing has changed to protect the integrity of the currency.