A Few Definitions
A place where coins are produced, a coin factory.
An institution which offers certain financial services, mainly the safekeeping of deposited money, lending, borrowing, foreign currency exchange, money transfers, handling bills of exchange including cheques.
A national or other bank which does business mainly with a government and other banks, regulates the volume and cost of credit, licenses and oversees commercial banks, and usually controls issue of that country's currency including notes and coins.
A bank, usually state, (but sometimes commercially) owned, controlled or regulated, which operates as a central bank.
Coins were first produced about 650 years B.C., over 2,500 years ago. They have at times been produced by private individuals or companies, but usually by or under the control of states or heads of state. It is almost a prerequisite of civilisation to have a convenient means of exchange and trade which retains a relatively known and stable value. This means of exchange is known as money. Until the last century it primarily took the form of coins, but has increasingly been replaced by banknotes especially for higher denominations, and more recently by electronic forms of exchange. This has probably come about by the expansion of demand for money as the world economy has grown. It has also been caused by inflation - depending on your definition of inflation.
Precious Metal & Metallic Tokens
In ancient times, coins were made made of the precious metals gold and silver, but also sometimes with copper. bronze or other base metals. Since the first world war, higher value coins in gold and silver have increasingly been replaced by paper money, and most money is now "fiat" money, it is only worth what we believe it to be worth. Banknotes are not as durable as metal though, and smaller monetary values (denominations) are still provided by coins. Circulation coins are almost exclusively made of base metals, although copper and bronze have largely been replaced by steel, aluminium, and alloys containing nickel, zinc, and other metals with copper, steel or aluminium. It is still common for higher value coins to be produced in a gold colour, medium value coins to be produced in a silvery colour, and lower value coins to be in a copper colour.
Forgeries and counterfeits have been produced since shortly after the first coins were made. Forgeries of precious metal coins can usually be detected because they contain a lower proportion of precious metal, and are therefore usually lighter and occasionally thicker than their real counterparts.
With base metal coins, the profitability of counterfeiting increases, so mints have had to devise high-tech production methods in an attempt to discourage forgery.
Over the millennia, the functions of mints and central banks have diverged. Many countries have a scheme whereby the national Treasury controls a central bank, a mint, and a banknote factory. These functions are often split and devolved to other government departments or commercial enterprises. A mint is essential a "coin factory", and there is no over-riding reason why it must be state owned or operated. One of the best known examples of a privately owned mint was the Soho Mint opened in Birmingham by Matthew Boulton in association with James Watt. Boulton's talent lay in producing and financing mechanical equipment to facilitate and automate production processes including coin minting. The Soho mint could produce better coins more efficiently and therefore more cheaply than the government owned Royal Mint, although it later supplied equipment to re-equip the Royal Mint. Many other private mints exist today.
In addition, many countries are too small to produce their own coins efficiently, and sub-contract their coin production to other national and private mints when required.
Numismatics grew in popularity during Victorian times, although the Soho Mint produced many collectors' coins, and a number of the "tokens" produced in the late 18th century also saw special versions made for collectors.
Now, most mints or currency authorities have turned the issuing of commemorative and collector coins into a commercial enterprise, often under a specialised department of their mint.
On our main Mints index page, we have varied our links scheme to reflect the actual arrangement in each country. If there is only one official mint, we have only shown one link from the country name in the "Country" column. If there are several competing mints, e.g. Australia, we have given each mint its own link under its own name in the "Mints" column. Where there are branch mints under one central control, e.g. Germany, we have provded one link from the country name, and listed all the branches individually on a single "Germany" page.
We have shown Central Banks where they have overall control of coin production, or where there is sufficient coin related information on their websites, otherwise we have only listed the actual mint or mints for that country.
Where a country has no mint, we have listed the organisation which is most directly concerned with issuing coins, whether for circulation or collectors.
If there is are separate organisations for collectors and circualtion coinage, we have generally shown both.