Reeded Edge Defined - What is a Reeded Edge?

The edge of an Eisenhower dollar showing the clad layers of the coin
The reeded edge showing the nickel and copper layers of a clad coin. .Image Copyright: © 2016 James Bucki; All rights reserved.

The reeded edge of a coin is the series of grooved lines that encircle the perimeter of some U.S. coins, such as the quarter and half dollar. If you inspect other coins, you will see that some of them don't have any reeding on the edge of the coin. Additionally, you may find coins that have words or symbols on the edge. Regardless of what adorns the edge of a coin, it is there for a purpose.

How Do the Reeds Get on the Edge of the Coin?

Those small grooves that that you find on the edge of a coin are usually added during the striking process.

Coin dies produce the obverse and the reverse of the coin. In order to hold the coin securely during the striking process, a metal collar that is the exact diameter of the coin is placed in between the two coin dies. A planchet is placed on top of the anvil die and held securely by the collar.

The collar has a series of small grooves already carved into it. When the planchet is struck at tremendous pressure, the coin tries to expand out the side but is held in place by the collar. The tiny grooves on the collar are now transferred to the edge of the coin.

Another method used to impart reeding and other edge adornments is to strike the coin first and then put it through a milling machine which will add the reeds or other design to the edge of the coin. This is usually done by rolling and squeezing the coin in between two metal strips that have the grooves or other design engraved on them.

Why Do They Put Reeds on the Edge of a Coin?

Originally, coins were made out of precious metals such as gold and silver.

As coins circulated, unscrupulous people would use a knife to scrape off a little bit of metal from each coin they came in contact with. As hundreds or even thousands of people shaved off a little metal, the coin would get smaller and be worth less than its stated value.

In colonial times, merchants used to weigh the coins that people were using to purchase goods.

If they were underweight, then the merchant would ask for some additional coins to make up the difference. In order to stop this practice of shaving or "clipping" coins, mints around the world added adornments such as reeds, lettering or some other type of decorative devices. If the edge adornments were gone, then you knew that the coin to had been clipped.

What Other Types of Edges Are on Coins?

Although there is no definitive list of the different type of edges on coins, here are a few of the most common (and some uncommon) edges you will find on coins:

  • Plain: The edge is smooth with no indentations or design on it.
  • Reeded: A series of small grooves running perpendicular that encompass the entire edge of the coin.
  • Lettered: Letters can be relief or incuse into the edge of the coin. They may contain complete words, abbreviations and/or symbols.
  • Grooved: This edge contains a groove that runs parallel to the surface of the coin and circumnavigates the entire edge of the coin. At first glance this may look as if there are two coins glued together.
  • Interrupted Reeded: A series of reeds followed by an equal  space of plane or  unadorned edge. This pattern repeats on the entire edge of the coin.
  • Indented: A series of indentations equally spaced around the edge of the coin. This is found on some euro coins, like the 20 cent euro.
  • Herringbone: A series of crisscrossed tiny grooves that form a shaped that resembles interconnected arrows and encompass the entire edge of the coin.
  • Serrated: A series of grooves that form a V shape on the edge of the coin. It continues evenly around the entire circumference of the coin.

Example Usage

The reeded edge was originally added to coins to prevent clipping and counterfeiting.

Edited by: James Bucki