Trying to define “coin” … it’s not so easy

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by calcol, Oct 27, 2020.

  1. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    I’m generating a set of coin trivia questions, and to restrict potentially correct answers, a few definitions are needed. The definitions below are designed specifically to work for the set of trivia questions and may be narrower than what is in common use. But some are wider than what is stated in most dictionaries.

    The first two definitions are relatively easy: “U.S.” means United States … the country that began 4 Mar 1789 when the Constitution took effect. “U.S. coin” means a coin minted in a U.S. mint, said mint under the authority of the U.S. Government … colonial, Confederation, Confederate, territorial, private, assay office, etc. don’t count. Objects produced by U.S. mints and designated by the U.S. government as medals are not U.S. coins. Coins produced by U.S. mints for U.S. territories or protectorates, or for foreign governments are not U.S. coins.

    Now the toughie. Definition of “coin” was discussed in the forum in 2004 (

    Here’s my definition:

    A coin is a cast, milled or struck metal, glass or plastic object that, within approximate limits, is a cylinder or right polyhedron, has a design or inscription, and was created by a government as a medium of exchange or has a monetary value inscribed. The object must have a width significantly greater than height. Objects having the foregoing physical characteristics, created under authority of a noble, company or military organization, and widely used as a medium of exchange are also coins. Counterfeits are not coins unless later accepted by governmental or military authorities to be one as described above. Paper, plastic or other fabric currency, stamps, checks, and bonds are not coins even if encased in metal, glass or other hard substance. Objects found in nature, like shells, rocks, gems, and wood, even if carved, stamped, milled, inscribed or otherwise altered, are not coins.

    It’s like trying to nail jelly to a tree. :confused:

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
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  3. Razz

    Razz Critical Thinker

    You might want to edit your definition to say 1789 and not 1989 as the start of the US.
    calcol likes this.
  4. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    Whoops! Done. Thanks. Cal
  5. Inspector43

    Inspector43 72 Year Collector

    What does "minted" mean?
  6. cpm9ball

    cpm9ball CANNOT RE-MEMBER

    Use the KISS system, please!
    Kentucky likes this.
  7. John Burgess

    John Burgess Well-Known Member

    Just stick with the standard dictionary definition "a flat, typically round piece of metal with an official stamp, used as money".

    To restrict potentially also correct answers, start off with the rule that "all questions have only one acceptable answer, although, there may be other answers. besides the one I am looking for that is the correct one." answer with, That's not the answer we are looking for here.

    jeopardy! for instance tries to avoid questions with more than one correct answer, but it's still happens from time to time. they just give credit for any of the correct answers when it happens and fix the score later after it's protested and looked at.

    You could also do that, believe it or not, it's pretty difficult to weed out every potential answer to a question and be certain their is only one right answer without setting a rule to deal with it if it occurs.

    instead of defining everything, much easier to define how to handle the situation in the rules instead and either only accept the one answer, or credit any correct answer even if it's the one you aren't looking for exactly but still correct to the question. if rules apply equally in every situation, it doesn't create unfairness. it's when you get caught off guard and have to make it up as you go along it becomes a mess.
  8. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the advice, and I'll take it. There won't be any definitions presented with questions. If an issue comes up that needs the definitions, I'll haul them out then.

  9. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Don't over think things. Simply said, a coin is an accepted means of economic exchange within a certain 'boundary' or country......
    hotwheelsearl and SensibleSal66 like this.
  10. KSorbo

    KSorbo Well-Known Member

    I agree that this is complicated. It may help to add an exclusion for things shaped like everyday objects that haven’t historically been used as a medium of exchange. That way a Byzantine scyphate or a denarius serratus can still be classified as a coin, while a bottle cap is not a coin, even if “minted” under the authority of a coin producing superpower like Liberia or Niue. Also, I would vote to exclude non-metal items such as my Transnistrian composite plastic “chip” set. I think the word “token” can be used more liberally to account for such items.
  11. SensibleSal66

    SensibleSal66 Well-Known Member

    a piece of metal stamped and issued by the authority of a government for use as money.
  12. KSorbo

    KSorbo Well-Known Member

    What about NCLT then? Case in point, I remember reading about people in the U.K. buying large denomination silver coins with a credit card to get cash back, but were not able to redeem the coins for their face value. So it is a stretch to say they were issued for use as money.
  13. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Я люблю черных кошек

    For me "money" encompasses a lot more than just a "coin", I have several numismatic items that were made to circulate as a medium of exchange that are not coins - even though they were made of metal:


    These cast dolphin pieces were used in ancient Olbiya/Skythia in what is now Ukraine during the 6th-5th BCE.

    This is a mid 19th century Katanga cross that was used as money in what is now the Congo and Zaire in southern Africa.


    A piece of boat or canoe money from Laos, ca the 16th century in silver. Also referred to as a "tamlung" or tiger tongue money.


    Swedish 4 daler from King Frederick's reign minted in 1731 - due to a shortage of silver and an abundance of copper Sweden elected to mint these ridiculously sized pieces of money until 1768, and they were circulated until 1776.
    George McClellan, green18 and calcol like this.
  14. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Я люблю черных кошек


    This is a Japanese "Bu" from ca. 1858, a piece of silver money.
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  15. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    The problem with stating that an object can be a coin only if issued by a government is there are lots of objects considered coins that were issued by organizations or military leaders who were rebels. This practice stretches backs over two millennia. There are lots of examples from ancient and medieval times when coins were issued by authority of a rebel general who was trying to take over or separate from the government.

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  16. SensibleSal66

    SensibleSal66 Well-Known Member

    Agree , all good definitions
  17. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    So the flexible things in your wallet that are printed in green ink with images of dead presidents on them are coins? :)

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  18. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Good point. Barbarous radiates often weren’t produced under the approval, or even knowledge, of the central government (assuming there even was one)

    does a central authority need to be present?

    back in elementary school, we used to tug the erasers off of pencils. These were called “Bob Sanders.” The more pristine the eraser, the more valuable.

    Those who were able to release a Ticonderoga green-metal eraser end were truly royalty - those Bob Sanders were worth several multiples of the cheaper pencil erasers.

    that was money to us, and we used them to purchase, barter, and trade for other Sanders as well as lunch and occassionally, United States legal tender money.
    calcol likes this.
  19. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    Where did the term "Bob Sanders" come from? Cal
  20. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I honestly have no idea. I first heard about the Bob Sanders from, I believe, a good friend of mine named John Berba.

    The Bob Sanders market was booming in the 3rd-4th grade. By 5th grade, most of the traders had grown out of it, but a select few were still active in the market.

    This was a very strange time in my life. On the bright side, it probably taught a good several dozen kids about real life finances! LOL

    Bob Sanders were traded for:
    a) other Bob Sanders. Ticonderoga ones were worth at least 5 regular Sanders. Large ones were worth up to 10.
    b) food. You could reasonably get a lunchable for 15 or so, and a Twinkie could cost around 7-10
    c) Yugioh cards. Depending on the rarity of the card, and the interest of the seller, certain cards could go for entire pencil-boxes worth of Bob Sanders.
    d) Those who weren't into barter simply brought cash. I think a standard Sanders was about 5 cents while the Ticonderoga ones could be up to a quarter depending on eraser quality.

    The downside of all this insanity was that the school had a strange epidemic of eraser-less pencils.

    What a strange time.
  21. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Derp, derp, derp!

    Sanders was nicknamed "The Hitman" because of his hard hits and tackles, and was also called "The Eraser" by former Colts' coach Tony Dungy because of his tendency to erase the mistakes of his teammates.

    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
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