When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, it wasn’t unusual to find really worn-down coins in circulation. Sometimes only the basic design existed and all details were gone, including the date. Now, every coin I get in circulation is in fairly good condition. Are the surfaces of clad coins (dimes & quarters) less prone to wear? And what about pennies and nickels? It’s not uncommon to get some from the 60s, which was 40 years ago, and they’re not in bad condition. What has changed?
My mother works for a bank. She states that there are certain criteria that a coin must have if the bank is to return it into circulation. (I have no idea what these criteria are). If a coin doesn’t meet those, it is taken out of circulation and returned to the treasury department for a replacement.
Those pennies from the 60’s have probably been hiding out in a coffee can or piggy bank most of those years.
If a coin is worn down and is too thin, or has been bent or mashed on the side so it’s no longer round, it will probably be kicked out of a coin sorting and counting machine.
Dimes, quarters and halves, dated 1964 and before are silver. Until about 1965, there was no reason to pull them out of circulation. Then, the price of silver went up, people started pulling them from circulation. So, by about 1968 or so, there was little to no silver left in circulation. Also, wheat pennies are dated before 1959. So, there was little reason to start pulling them from circulation until the 1960’s.
When you and I were kids, you would quite often get silver coins dated in the teens that had worn pretty smooth.
While the copper-nickel coins of the last 40+ years are no doubt harder metal, they too will start to wear quite a bit at we go through the next 20+ years.
And so it goes.