James Z. Writes: I to be a university professor who at California State University, Hayward. I job-related with students who will come to be elementary college teachers. I was visiting a college today, and also a fourth grader inquiry me the adhering to question, “Why is the dime for this reason small?” The penny and nickel space both bigger than the dime, yet the dime is worth more. Why is the dime smaller sized than the nickel?


The united States provided to have an intrinsic monetary mechanism that relied on circulating precious metal coins for commerce. Coins were “the money”. The United says really didn’t have a national file money mechanism until 1861 and that to be controversial because they to be “Legal Tender” notes, not redeemable for coins. This fiat money was one method the joined States increased funds to lug on the polite War. Paper money redeemable for gold and also silver coins were revived after the war however the record was just a receipt because that coins.

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For money to be intrinsic, a dime had actually to have virtually 10 cent worth that silver, a quarter had actually to have virtually 25 cents worth the silver, etc. In the early days that the country the precious steel content that U.S. Gold and also silver coins was also high in connection to precious steel prices in Europe and also massive quantities of coins to be melted, sold in Europe and resold back to the united States. The U.S. Reduced the precious steel content in 1834 and then in silver- coins in 1853 and also then was able to save coins in circulation. Half dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars and also dollars were struck in .900 well silver and their value, size and weight to be proportional (less a tiny amount that seigniorige to assist defray the Mint’s price of developing the coin).

Practical considerations request a low worth token coinage in stimulate to make change. The very first copper cents were as nearly as large as current day half dollars. This was an effort to make the coin intrinsic (one cent precious of copper). The eventually came to be impractical to usage such a coin in day-to-day transactions and that coin to be tokenized and also reduced by 1857 to the size we watch the cent today. Token coinage was not directly redeemable for precious steel coins and therefore not legal tender. Because that example, a 19th century financial institution might refuse to readjust 25 one cent coins into a silver quarter)

The copper-nickel 5 cent was presented as a token coinage in 1866 as was made bigger for helpful reasons. Though tiny, silver fifty percent dimes ongoing to be created until 1873 the larger copper-nickel coin was less complicated to handle and also less likely to be lost. (Note that just precious metal coins had reeded edges. Base metal coins had actually plain edges)

Though base steel coinage was no legal tender, it was critical to assist complete transactions. The two major 19th century coin shortages, in the 1830’s and in the 1860’s, virtually brought commerce come its knee due the dearth of small change. A cottage industry emerged during this duration making little change in the form of tens of countless “good fors” and also “advertising tokens” For an ext info, see: Tokens – The individuals Money.


After 1964 virtually all precious steels were removed from the U.S. Coinage mechanism (a lower content, 40% silver half dollars ongoing to be produced until 1970) and also the entire coinage system became tokenized. Coins were developed that mimicked the look of the old precious steel coins by the clever use of a copper-nickel sandwich through a pure copper core and a reeded edge. This composition is recognized as copper-nickel “Clad” coinage. The cent and nickel remained the very same composition as before. The cent was further debased in 1982 by instead of copper planchets v zinc and also then plating them v copper.

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Today the dimension relationship in between United says coins tho exists but for reasons of heritage only. Also, none of our present coins space legal tender and no one is obligated to accept them as money. Money’s an interpretation has changed radically over the years and now only document money in the type of commonwealth Reserve notes are thought about legal tender.