From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Coin clipping is the act of shaving off a small portion of a precious metal coin for profit. Over time the precious metal clippings would be saved up and melted into bullion.
Up until the mid 20th century, coins were often made of silver or gold, which were quite soft and prone to wear. This meant coins naturally got lighter (and thus less valuable) as they aged, so coins that had lost a small amount of silver would go unnoticed.
Coin clipping was usually considered by the law to be of a similar magnitude to counterfeiting, and was occasionally punished by death.
Coin clipping is why many coins have the rim of the coin marked with stripes (milling or reeding), text (engraving) or some other pattern that would be destroyed if the coin were clipped, a process attributed to Isaac Newton, after being appointed Master of the Mint (charge he held from 1699 to his death in 1727). Although the metal used in most modern coins is not intrinsically valuable, the milling is a deterrent to counterfeiting, an aid to the blind to distinguish different denominations or purely decorative.
Modern coins are made of hard, cheap metals such as steel, copper or a copper-nickel alloy, reducing wear and removing the incentive to clip them.
- ^ See for example the English Treason Act 1415.