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Today coinage has lost its traditional place as the most important component of circulating money. The biggest change has been the reduction of coinage to fiduciary status: its value is no longer based on its metallic content. A coin’s denomination is determined solely by the issuing government. Very few modern circulating coins still contain any precious metal at all, and some countries have stopped issuing coinage altogether as a cost-cutting measure; coins are more expensive to produce than paper money.

The latest developments in circulating coinage have included the use of bimetallic (two or more different metals) coins (such as used in some Euro coins) and colorizing a portion of the design (as on some Canadian quarters since 2004). Possible future developments include issuing circulating coins with holographic images on them, such as has been done on some commemorative coins and on some paper money issues.

The political and economic dominance of Europe through the early 20th century created a unified world view of money based on European monetary ideas. Modern coinage features standard elements: written and graphic messages identifying the issuing authority, the denomination, and a date of issue. Many countries include information beyond this simple formula, often designed to highlight the benefits of the current regime, promote agendas, or to commemorate historical events or national heroes. The result is a rich and varied source of information about the peoples of the world, their aspirations, political organization and an artistic window into their cultures.


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