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What is the Difference
Between a Coin and a Round?

If you’re looking to invest in Precious Metals and want something smaller, lighter and easier to store and transport than large bullion bars, Gold and Silver coins and rounds are the way to go. Both are flat, round and easily stackable. As Precious Metals items, they can be graded by numismatic organizations like the Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. In some cases, the two can look almost identical. But for all their similarities, their values are determined very differently.

What is a coin?

A coin is round… but it is not a round. It has two important attributes that distinguish it from a round:

  • A coin is minted by a sovereign government.
  • A coin is legal tender with a minimum face value.

Typically, government treasury issued mint coins are intended to circulate within the public as currency, so the coins are given a face value that can be used during financial transactions. The actual coin value, however, can differ from its minted face value. Time, historical context and other features can increase coin values such that previously circulated coins become collectors’ pieces.

For bullion coins, which are intended as investment pieces and not for circulation, the face value is usually low in comparison to the Precious Metal content. Having a high commodity, metal or historical, value and low nominal, or face value ensure that the coin stays out of public circulation. This is a result of Gresham’s law, the economic principle that states, "When a government overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation."

U.S. Mint coins, U.S. Silver coins in particular, are prime examples of this principle. The U.S. Silver American Eagle has a face value of only one dollar, while its metal content is worth roughly 14 times that.

Coin designs usually represent cultural or patriotic values. In most countries, designs have to be approved by a legislative body or advisory committee. Their legal status as tender offers investors some protection since it is illegal to counterfeit coins.

Examples of Silver and Gold coins for sale:

What is a round?

Rounds are minted by private mints and have no face value. They’re not intended to ever circulate as currency. As an investment in metals, rounds are great stores of value since their value is based solely off its Precious Metal content. This usually means that it is more affordable to buy Silver rounds than Silver coins, or Gold rounds than Gold coins, especially rare coins.

Designs for rounds are limitless, often commemorating events and stories or honoring favored interests like sports, wildlife, holidays and even comic book characters. Many rounds pay homage to historical coins, and are designed as almost exact replicas. The Hobby Protection Act of 1973 requires that imitation rounds, and other numismatics, be clearly marked with “COPY” to quickly identify replicas and prevent fraud.

Another interesting difference between coins and rounds that prevents counterfeiting: rounds cannot be made with the exact dimension and weight of any coin produced anywhere in the world. This allows for some interesting size listings including everything from 1/25 oz Gold rounds to 1/4 oz Copper rounds to 1 oz Silver rounds.

Helpful Resources

How to Invest in Precious Metals (2:38)

See how Gold, an ancient storehouse of wealth, plays a vital role in modern investment portfolios. Watch Video

The Precious Metals Guide: Insights & Services

Written to acquaint you with Precious Metals investing and all the ways APMEX helps you succeed. Read more

Market Updates

Monitor the performance of Gold and Silver with daily market commentaries. Learn More

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