Coinage

Copper has Played a Key Role in the History of Coins

Copper has been used to make coins for currency since about 600BC – see The Timeline of Copper. The ancient Romans recognised the value of this material and used a wide variety of copper coins.

Centuries later, the Gold Standard gave way to the Copper Standard for coins of all values due to copper’s long-lasting properties.

Even today, when consumers are surveyed about copper, the most popular association comes with currency and coins. Anglo-Saxon countries like England and the United States have long used copper for their most popular coins, such as the penny.

Nowadays, copper and its alloys continue to be chosen for coinage. Euro coins have copper as their base.

Copper and its alloys are easily made into coins, thanks to their workability, and have an extraordinary resistance to impact and wear: these features are indispensable to items continuously subject to handling.

Their corrosion resistance is well-known, which is why several ancient objects (many coins among them) have lasted almost unaltered up to the present day, even if exposed to atmospheric agents or submerged in seawater.

Copper alloys, beyond being fully recyclable, may offer different colours depending on the percentage content and other metals. For example, the golden-yellow 10, 20 and 50 euro cents coins are 89% copper.

Another property to take into account in the choice of copper is its health benefits. Passing from hand to hand, coins can spread disease-causing germs. Copper and its alloys are antimicrobial, meaning they can fight the proliferation of germs on their surfaces. Only the 1, 2 and 5 cents coins are made of steel, but they are covered with copper for this reason.

Finally, euro coins must have precise electrical and magnetic features, in order to be recognisable by vending machines. The addition of nickel can modulate the magnetic permeability of the alloys, while the electrical conductivity of 10, 20 and 50 coins is one seventh that of pure copper.

Coins and Content
 10, 20 and 50 cent CuAl5Zn5Sn1
 1 and 2 euro CuNi25
 1 and 2 euro CuZn20Ni5

FAQs

Are the 1, 2 and 5 cent euro coins pure copper?

No, they are made from steel coated with a thin layer of copper.

Why are copper and copper alloys used in coinage?

Since ancient times copper has been used in coins; the Romans used copper widely in this application. The reasons for using copper are its excellent corrosion resistance, ease of stamping, good electrical conductivity for vending machines, antimicrobial properties and ease of recycling.