Coins have a face value and must be issued with government backing. More often than not, coins are circular pieces struck from precious metals like silver or gold. However, coins do not always have to be round, and some mints strike fascinating “shaped coins” such as this Shark-Shaped coin from the Solomon Islands and this Darth Vader Helmet shaped mask from Niue. For some of the unique shapes that coins can be issued in, check out this Info-Vault article about our top 9 odd-shaped coins. The key definition of a coin is that is legal tender with a face value and was issued by a sovereign mint either as a piece of circulating coinage or as a collectible coin. It should be noted that face value does not equal the value of the coin itself, but rather what it would be worth in a financial transaction. For example a Silver Eagle may have a face value of $1, however due to the spot price of silver at the time among other factors, the coin will be worth more than just its face value.
Coins issued by sovereign mints are often more restricted and conservative in terms of designs as they are determined by a committee or legislation.
Rounds are very similar to coins in that they are round pieces struck from precious metals, and even feature impressive designs sometimes. The primary difference between coins and rounds is that coins have a face value and rounds do not. Rounds are issued by private mints who do not have the authority to authorize legal tender and therefore do not have a face value. This means that the value of rounds is based on the precious metal content and its value at a given time.
As their designs do not have to be formally approved by a legislative body, rounds can be struck with a wide variety of designs ranging from political interests to religious themes to movie characters and beyond.
Some rounds are replicas of famous coin designs such as this Morgan round from the Highland Mint that is closely based off of the famous Morgan Silver Dollar issued by the United States Mint, but lacks a few key details such as a face value and a U.S Mint mark (a HM is used instead). Rounds are also often less cost prohibitive than buying coins issued from sovereign Mints which makes them ideal for bullion stackers.
Bars are generally issued by private mints although some sovereign mints, such as the Royal Canadian Mint, do issue them as well. Bars are generally issued for those looking to buy precious metals like silver and gold in bulk and do not have a face value even when issued by sovereign mints. Common silver bar weights include 1 oz., 5 oz., 10 oz., 1 kilogram, and 100 ounces. Bars cannot be used in financial transactions are instead traded based upon their silver content and purity based off the spot price at the time.
For further reading on the differences between coins, bars, and rounds, check out this other informative Info-Vault article.
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