According to the U.S. Mint, ridges were added to the edges of quarters (aka reeded edges) to help prevent fraud and counterfeiting. Reeded edges on coins prevent people from being able to shave valuable precious metal (silver, gold, etc.) out of the sides of a coin (aka coin clipping). These shavings can be combined with shavings from other coins and melted down and sold. Also, coins with reeded edges are much harder to counterfeit than coins with smooth edges.
Up until about 50 years ago, quarters were minuted with actual silver in them. This is no longer the case but the U.S. Mint says it continues to use ridges because it helps the blind easily identify coins.
Here is a picture comparing clipped coins from Ancient Rome:
You now might be asking yourself why quarters and dimes have ridges but pennies and nickles do not. This is because pennies and nickels were never minted using precious metals, with the exception of the wartime nickel during WWII.
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- Quarters have 119 ridges on them.
- Isaac Newton came up with the idea of using reeded edges to prevent fraud.
- A 1794 dollar coin was 89% silver and 11% copper.