The first coins of ancient Greece were made of copper and gold: the choice of these noble metals was due to the fact that they could be found native, and their good corrosion resistance.
Nowadays, copper and its alloys continue to be chosen for coinage. Euro coins have the red metal as their base.
Copper and its alloys are easily made into coins, thanks to their workability, and have an extraordinary resistance to impact and wear: these features are indispensable to items continuously subject to handling.
Their corrosion resistance is well-known, which is why several ancient objects (many copper coins among them) have lasted almost unaltered up to the present day, even if exposed to atmospheric agents or submerged in seawater.
Copper alloys, beyond being fully recyclable, may offer different colours depending on the percentage content and other metals. For example, the golden-yellow 10, 20 and 50 euro cents coins are 89% copper.
Another property to take into account in the choice of copper is its health benefits. Passing from hand to hand, coins can spread disease-causing germs. Copper and its alloys are antimicrobial, meaning they can fight the proliferation of germs on their surfaces. Only the 1, 2 and 5 cents coins are made of steel, but they are covered with copper for this reason.
Finally, euro coins must have precise electrical and magnetic features, in order to be recognisable by vending machines. The addition of nickel can modulate the magnetic permeability of the alloys, while the electrical conductivity of 10, 20 and 50 coins is one seventh that of pure copper.