Milled coinage

Milled coinage

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In numismatics
Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the...

, the term milled coinage (also known as machine-struck coinage) is used to describe coins which are produced by some form of machine, rather than by manually hammering coin blanks between two dies (hammered coinage
Hammered coinage
Hammered coinage is the most common form of coins produced since the invention of coins in the first millennium BC until the early modern period of ca...

) or casting coins from dies.


The earliest machine known for producing coins is the screw press, invented by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 in the 15th century, powered by a water mill. With the arrival of machine-driven and struck coins also came new technology and techniques for stamping the coin's edge with a reeded or milled edge or impressed with designs. The presence of reeding shows that the coin's edge has not been shaved or clipped.

The new edging processes for coins impeded them from being clipped
Coin clipping
Coin debasement is the act of decreasing the amount of precious metal in a coin, while continuing to circulate it at face value. This was frequently done by governments in order to inflate the amount of currency in circulation; typically, some of the precious metal was replaced by a cheaper metal...

 into smaller pieces as did happen when coins were hammer-struck. Hence, milled edges were originally designed and intended to show that none of the metal had been shaved off the coin. Earlier, coins were shaved or clipped to almost half of their minted weight by unscrupulous persons and it is from this phenomenon that we derive the phrase "clip artist" to mean a thief. This form of debasement in Tudor England led to the formulation of Gresham's Law
Gresham's Law
Gresham's law is an economic principle that states: "When a government compulsorily overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation." It is commonly...

, so named after Sir Thomas Gresham
Thomas Gresham
Sir Thomas Gresham was an English merchant and financier who worked for King Edward VI of England and for Edward's half-sisters, Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I.-Family and childhood:...


The earliest milled coins produced in England date from the early 1560s, but milled coinage did not entirely replace hammered coinage until 1662.

The British numismatic term for the reeded ridged edge is graining
Graining is the practice of imitating woodgrain on a non-wood surface in order to increase that surface's aesthetic appeal. Graining was common in the 19th century, as people were keen on imitating hard, expensive woods by applying a superficial layer of paint onto soft, inexpensive woods. Graining...

 and the reeds are called crenellations.