Penny, Dime, Half Dime Sizes Small Coins

Sizes of U.S. Coins Past and Present

Why is a penny larger than a dime? Why is a nickel larger than both the dime and the penny? Why are half dollar coins so big?

The sizes of these coins may seem confusing. To understand the sizes of modern day coins, we have to look at the history of how these coins came to be.

Below is a chart of the sizes of modern U.S. Coins.

Modern Coins By Size Chart Millimeters
U.S. coins organized by diameter in millimeters.

Why is a penny larger than a dime?

Coins used to be valued based on their metal composition. A penny was larger than a dime, because pennies were made of copper, and dimes were made of silver. Since silver is more valuable than copper, the dime had to be made smaller than the penny.

Why is a nickel larger than a dime?

Before the nickel was invented in 1866, the U.S. used another coin called a half dime. The half dime weighed about half as much as a silver dime.

Due to rising silver prices, the U.S. Mint decided to halt production of the half dime and begin making a new coin out of nickel. Since their inception, nickels have been made of 75% copper and 25% nickel.

The size of the 5 cent piece, known as the nickel, has increased from 20.5mm in the first nickel to 21.5mm in modern nickels.

What was the smallest U.S. coin ever produced?

The smallest U.S. coin currently in circulation is the Roosevelt dime, but the smallest U.S. coin ever minted was the gold dollar in 1849 at 13mm in diameter.

Here is a chart of some of the smallest coins minted in the U.S.:

Smallest Coins in US History by Size Chart

Why are half dollar coins bigger than dollar coins?

Half dollar coins have not always been larger than dollar coins. Before 1979, dollar coins were 38.1 mm in diameter.

When coins were valued by the metal composition, a silver dollar needed to weigh about twice as much as a half dollar.

What is the largest coin ever made in the US?

The largest coin ever produced in the US was the Draped Bust Dollar at a tremendous 40mm. Since the coin was 90% silver, it weighed almost 27 grams.

Carrying just 17 of the Draped Bust dollar coins in your pocket would have weighed over 1 pound! Comparing that to modern dollar coins, you would need to have 56 presidential dollar coins to equal a pound.

Largest Coins Minted in the US Measured in Millimeters America Coin Sizes
Largest Coins Minted in the US Measured in Millimeters.

Was this article helpful? If you have any more questions about coin sizes, add a comment below!