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What is the rim of a coin and why should you care?

In this article we will see what a listel is and what are those functions that make it so relevant. I assure you that some of what I tell you here will surprise you.

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listel de una moneda

The rim of the coin is that part that is always present, but we don’t know why it is so important, because we hardly notice it is there.

You might think that, because it is a little unknown, the rim is unimportant. Wrong. It is just the opposite, it is one of the most important and interesting parts of the design of any coin.

In this article we will see what a rim is and what are those functions that make it so relevant. We will see an example of a rim, and then we will delve into those errors that affect it and can significantly increase the value of a coin.

What is the rim of the coin?

The rim is the part that protrudes from the edge of the coin and surrounds the perimeter of the coin. It is also known as a rim, fillet or rim. Its function is to protect the coin from wear and tear due to continuous handling.

RIM
RIM

Often the rim is accompanied by the graphilla, although they are different parts of the coin. We will write about the graphilla in another article, to explain it in more detail. The rim is almost always round, but it is not essential that it is, it can be formed by straight lines and interior angles as in the case of the ONE DOLLAR coin of 1979.

ONE Dolar de 1979
ONE Dolar of 1979

The rim is normally included on both sides of the coin, both obverse and reverse. The thickness and width of the rim varies according to the type of coin. These variations can be seen between coins from different countries, or even between coins of different denominations within a numismatic cone.

An interesting thing about the rim is that it is generated when the coin blanks are created. Therefore, it is prior to the minting process. You will understand better why this is important later on.

Why is the rim important?

The rim is very important on coins, and fulfills several functions that are relevant during minting, and later in daily use. Let’s review these relevant aspects that every collector should know.

The  first function  of the rim is to serve as a guide for the die during the minting process. When the coin blank is placed in the press, the rim acts as a stopper to prevent the die strike from shifting with each strike. These displacements, when they occur, are considered coin errors.

For this reason, the rim is created prior to the minting process. Without a rim, minting errors due to displacement would increase. I will write more about the errors that affect the rim below.

The  second function  of the rim is to protect the coin from wear and tear due to recurring use. Although the metals and alloys used to create coins are strong, they are not exempt from erosion and deterioration from rubbing against different surfaces. This is where the rim plays a key role in coin preservation.

It also, together with the minting work of the edge, protects the coin against malicious reduction as happened in the past with Roman coins, macuquinas and other coins without a rim.

The  third function  of the edging is to allow the pieces to be stacked. It is a bit obvious to say, but coins have relief. Imagine 10 or 20 coins without rims, one on top of the other, relief against relief. They would hardly stand up in a perfect tower, because the designs are irregular surfaces. The main advantage of this feature is that it greatly facilitates storage in rolls, or directly in columns.

Finally, in some latitudes the rim has a  fourth very important function , which is that it serves as a tactile reference for blind people. This is done by marking noticeable differences between coins of different denominations, or by including patterns that the blind and visually impaired can recognize by touching them with their fingers.

U.S. coins usually have a thin edge, but on $1 pieces it is much wider. The purpose is for blind people to distinguish the dollar from the quarter by touch alone.

Example of a rim on a coin

Currently most of the world’s circulating coins have rims on them. Therefore, I can assure you that, if you look for any coin right now at home, or in your wallet, you will be able to personally verify what you have just read.

Let’s suppose you read me from Spain and you have an old 2000 Spanish peseta coin, minted in 2001, like this one:

Moneda de 2000 pesetas de 2001
2000 Spanish peseta coin

You will be able to identify the rim on both the obverse and reverse of the piece. In both cases, accompanied by a graffito with plenty of space between the visible dots.

What about damage and errors with the rim of a coin?

With errors in the rim, the same thing happens as with errors in any other area of the coin. They tend to increase the value of the coins in the collectors’ and numismatists’ market.

But before deciding whether a coin is valuable or not, because of an error that affects the rim, we must distinguish the error from the damage. It is important to differentiate one from the other, because while errors add value, damage subtracts it. Errors are interesting while a damaged coin loses its value.

Damage in rim

We are in the presence of damage when:

  • The coin shows dents, dings or scratches that clearly post-date the time of minting.
  • The rim has the letters or the dots of the graphite, due to wear and tear.
  • The high rim is bent inward over the interior details. This damage can be caused intentionally if someone applies pressure on the area.
  • The angle between the edge and the rim is lost, generating a rounded appearance at the ends of the coin.
  • None of these cases can be considered errors and therefore do not add value to the coins. It does not matter if the damage is intentional or the result of time and use. A damaged coin will always be worth less than an equal coin in optimum condition.

Errors in the rim

An error, on the other hand, is a deviation from the expected result in the minting process of a coin. Errors are characterized by their lack of intentionality. If someone intentionally alters the design of a coin, we would be in the presence of a damage, not an error.

NOTE: The motives for passing off damage as error are almost always fraudulent. I will not delve into this point, but it is worth knowing, so as not to fall into scams.

So, the errors that affect the rim of a coin can be summarized in 5 types.

Wide strikes

Coins are struck inside something called a Retaining Collar, which holds the coin to be struck securely by the dies. This Retaining Collar collaborates with the shape of the rim, and also the edge.

When the Retaining Collar fails, several things can happen. The resulting coin may be flatter than normal; the rim and edge may not be struck; or the rim may disappear. This is known as a Broadstrike.

Golpes anchos
Wide strikes

This is what a coin looks like when it has been struck incorrectly, affecting the rim and possibly the edge of the coin.

Displacement of the die strike

Another common type of error that affects the rim of a coin. Actually, when the die is displaced, the entire design is affected, but the deformation of the rim can be quite evident.

Depending on the percent displacement of the die, the error known as duplication can be seen, which is when both strikes of the coin are very subtly noticeable. In this case all the edges of the design are duplicated.

Desplazamiento del golpe de cuño
Displacement of the die strike

In other cases, such as the one we have just seen, the displacement can cause a considerable part of the coin’s design to be lost.

Alterations in the relief of the design (Die cuds)

Another error that we can detect associated with the rim of a coin are alterations in the relief of the design. The most common are protuberances that come out of the rim and advance over the coin’s field, affecting the design. These are known as Die Cubs.

Die Cuds
Die cuds

Die Cubs can be fine lines produced by breaks in the dies, or wide and flat. Depending on the size and appearance of the relief alteration is the value collectors place on these errors. Normally most of them exceed 100 dollars.

Blank Coins

A blank coin is a piece that the die failed to stamp the design with the strike of the press. These types of coins should not exist, but when one is detected it is because it escaped the controls of the Mint where it was issued.

Monedas en blanco
Blank Coins

Sometimes the blank coin shows evidence of the edge, slight, and sometimes you can’t even identify a rim on the coin. Full blanks without any edge are more valuable than finished slabs that have poorly defined edges.

Cut Coins

Cut coins are produced by an error in the cutting machine, which removes a portion of the coin blank before it is struck in the press. The cuts can be straight, or rounded in the shape of a half moon.

Monedas cortadas
Cut Coins

With the cut coins it is exactly the same as with the previous error. These coins are supposed to be destroyed at the mint when they are detected by quality control. When a piece escapes the process, and goes on the market, its value skyrockets. It is important that an expert certifies that the cutting occurred inside the Mint, and not later by someone trying to sell you something that is not.

Conclusions about the rim

You now have enough information about the coin’s rim to never overlook it again. One of the most important points of this article, although implicit, is that in numismatics all design elements are relevant and have a history and details worthy of being addressed in depth.

If you liked the article, I invite you to share it on your social networks to reach more people. You can also suggest other topics in the comments. I would love to research and write about that doubt or question you have regarding coin collecting.

Kossi Adzo is the editor and author of Startup.info. He is software engineer. Innovation, Businesses and companies are his passion. He filled several patents in IT & Communication technologies. He manages the technical operations at Startup.info.

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