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How long do coins take to wear down?

Hi guys,
I am a long time lurker who has wondered, how long does it take a new coin to wear down from UNC to AU or XF or VG, etc? I assume a typical silver coin probably wore down to AU in a few months, and maybe took a year or so to hit XF, and maybe several years (on average) to get to F or VG, but has anyone actually researched this? An SLQ probably wore down quickly but a nickel coin would probably take longer. Gold probably wore down quickly but some gold was in a sack or pouch and didn’t get much wear compared to a gold coin in a pocket. Curious to hear what people think and have observed and thanks in advance!


  • Mr_SpudMr_Spud Posts: 3,979 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I don’t know, but I found out that it takes more than one month. I recentlycarried an uncirculated Ike, SAE, a Sacajawea and a President dollar as pocket pieces for one month and then submitted them to PCGS to try and get AUs for my circulated slabbed type sets and they all came back with MS grades. So I know it takes longer than a month 🙃


  • davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    the nickel and nickel clad coins are lasting longer ... the ones going through slot machines wear faster

  • OAKSTAROAKSTAR Posts: 4,851 ✭✭✭✭✭

    23 years! 😉

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 30,366 ✭✭✭✭✭

    About a month in a washing machine.

  • SmudgeSmudge Posts: 9,057 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have been carrying a silver round as a pocket piece for years. Still a strong AU. Coins worked much harder when they had value.

  • silviosisilviosi Posts: 271 ✭✭✭

    @ johnnyb

    One second, this it is the answer. The moment you manipulate: = NO more UNC.


  • rec78rec78 Posts: 5,630 ✭✭✭✭✭

    All depends on how much usage they get.

  • 291fifth291fifth Posts: 23,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Velocity of use varies over time and by denomination. Coins wear down much more slowly today because the velocity of use has lessened in recent decades. It is not unusual to find a fifty year old coin in circulation today that is XF or better. Sixty years ago finding an Xf or better coin fifty years old was a rare event (except for silver dollars).

    All glory is fleeting.
  • PerryHallPerryHall Posts: 44,841 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @jmlanzaf said:
    About a month in a washing machine.

    Even quicker if it's a zinc cent laying in a Walmart parking lot. :o

    Worry is the interest you pay on a debt you may not owe.

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 30,366 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @silviosi said:

    @ johnnyb

    One second, this it is the answer. The moment you manipulate: = NO more UNC.

    This is absolutely not true

  • rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    There is no definitive answer since so much depends on the material and usage. Cents could come out of a new roll and spend a decade in a mason jar or sock drawer. Quarters could hit the pay washing machine business and through repeated use, show wear in seven or eight years. Cheers, RickO

  • Joe_360Joe_360 Posts: 1,484 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 14, 2023 11:47AM

    You take π times the √ of the weight of coin and divide that by the year that the coin was minted, and then sit on your couch for 2 days watching reruns of "The Coin Vault" and then subtract 2 and you will have your answer, Grasshopper....

  • cameonut2011cameonut2011 Posts: 9,915 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It depends on the metal, design elements, and how heavily it circulates. I seem to recall reading a U.S. Mint webpage severs years ago that considered 25 years the useful lifespan of a coin although I’m sure that’s changed with heavy reliance on credit cards, debit cards, etc.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,033 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Years ago, 20 years used to be the number I heard. I think it changed with the clad coinage because copper-nickel is harder than silver.

    My gut tells me that the copper coated zinc cents would not last long if they saw the type of use they had up until the 1960s, but they don’t.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • Jzyskowski1Jzyskowski1 Posts: 6,651 ✭✭✭✭✭

    After extensive research we find that the washer and or dryer come in first. A grinder being the exception. Thanks

    🎶 shout shout, let it all out 🎶

  • CoinHoarderCoinHoarder Posts: 2,313 ✭✭✭✭✭

    In 1966 I received a 1937 quarter that was in AG condition. So, in that case it took about 29 years for circulation to wear down the soft silver metal.

    I still have that coin. But I have so many other worn down 1937 quarters, I do not know which one it was anymore. :)

  • johnnybjohnnyb Posts: 29 ✭✭✭

    Many thanks for all of your responses! Sounds like coins take a while to wear down, even to AU! I was thinking about carrying a few coins (including silver) in my pocket as an experiment, but it might take years and I don't want to spend the silver by mistake (or find it in the washing machine!)

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