Coins

A coin is a small metal disc that we use as money. The United States Mint is the government agency that makes U.S. coins. Did you know that the Mint makes more than one billion coins a year? Cha-ching!

Coins that you use every day as money are “in circulation.” Have you ever noticed that some of the coins you use are old? That’s because coins can stay in circulation for many years. The Mint makes new coins each year, but they make up less than 20% of the total coins in circulation. More than 80% comes from people re-using coins to pay for goods and services. When a coin is not being used as money, such as when it’s stored in your piggy bank, it is no longer in circulation.

It’s fun and rewarding to collect coins, but right now we ask people to spend their coins so they are available when and where needed.

How Coins Circulate: the U.S. Mint sends coins to Federal Reserve Banks and then to banks across the U.S. to enter circulation and cycle between banks, people, and stores

Parts of a Coin

Each coin is made of different metals, designs, and sizes, but every coin has two sides: an obverse (heads) and a reverse (tails).

Kids Parts of a Coin graphic showing front and back of coin with labeled parts

  • The outer surface, which can have lettering, reeding, or designs on it, is called the edge. Near the edge is the raised area called the rim.
  • Both sides of the coin feature designs and artwork, often including an image of a person from the neck up, known as a bust.
  • The blank area of background on a coin is called the field. The term relief refers to the depth of the markings on the coin and how much they are raised above the field.
  • Small letters show where the coin was minted, known as the mint mark, and the initials of the sculptor or artist who designed and/or sculpted the coin. Other writing on a coin includes the date and the inscription.

Coin Composition

The Mint makes many coins and medals, but they are not all worth the same. Below are the coins that we make the most and details about their value, composition, weight, diameter, and thickness.

Denomination Cent

2019 Lincoln Penny Obverse Uncirculated
Nickel

2019 Jefferson Nickel Obverse Uncirculated
Dime

2019 Roosevelt Dime Obverse Uncirculated
Quarter Dollar

2019 America the Beautiful Quarters Obverse Uncirculated
Value 1 Cent 5 Cents 10 Cents 25 Cents
Composition Copper Plated Zinc

2.5% Cu
Balance Zn

Cupro-Nickel

25% Ni
Balance Cu

Cupro-Nickel

8.33% Ni
Balance Cu

Cupro-Nickel

8.33% Ni
Balance Cu

Weight 2.500 g 5.000 g 2.268 g 5.670 g
Diameter 0.750 in.
19.05 mm
0.835 in.
21.21 mm
0.705 in.
17.91 mm
0.955 in.
24.26 mm
Thickness 1.52 mm 1.95 mm 1.35 mm 1.75 mm

About the U.S. Mint

Every coin in your pocket was made in the United States by one of the Mint’s facilities. Curious about what the Mint does or how coins are made? In these videos, made especially for kids, learn about the Mint’s coin-making process from start to finish as well as what the U.S. Mint does.

Learn more about the Mint and its history on the pages below.