Early coins were made of precious metals, with the value of the metal being equal to the face value of the coin. Since the value of the metal was key to its worth, no one thought twice about cutting a silver coin into pieces; a rather novel way of making change, one might say. This sliver of a silver dollar coin, eight Spanish reales (royals), was found during an excavation of the Fort Williams site on the Wabash River near its confluence with the Ohio River. A Spanish piece of eight was one-eighth of the eight reales coin.
Today, coins in every day circulation are not made of silver or gold because the value of those metals far exceeds the value of coins routinely in use. Cutting a collectible silver or gold coin today would be unthinkable because the coins have additional historic and intrinsic value to collectors. Damaging them in any way would reduce their collectible value significantly.