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IN 2 Cent Pieces

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Struck by the United States Mint between 1864 and 1873, the 2 Cent Piece was the first U.S. coin to feature the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.

The 2 Cent Piece was introduced in 1864 when the majority of coins had disappeared from circulation as a result of the Civil War. At the time, people across the nation were hoarding U.S. coinage, from gold and silver coins to base-metal pieces. Mint officials believed that a two-cent issue composed of French bronze would answer the country’s need for small change and help put an end to the coin shortage.

Designed by James Barton Longacre, the 2 Cent Piece became an important coin in U.S. history because it was the first to feature the well-known motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The phrase can be found on a scroll that is situated above a shield on the coin’s obverse. Below the shield is the date. The reverse displays the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounding a simple wreath, which encircles the coin’s 2 CENTS value.

When the 2 Cent Piece made its first appearance, it was embraced by the general public and quickly became a well-liked coin. However, the coin’s popularity didn’t last and mintage levels plummeted each year until it was finally discontinued in 1873.

Inspired by Bronze Civil War Tokens

Towards the end of the Civil War, it became clear that the American population was keeping hold of all the gold, silver and even base-metal U.S. coinage. It was rare to see a coin in circulation, so drastic action was needed. Congress issued fractional and postal currency as a money substitute but the general public was less than impressed with both offerings. A short while after, some entrepreneurs suggested the use of bronze tokens, similar in size to the cent.

Otherwise known as Civil War tokens, the bronze tokens seemed to work and were accepted by merchants and the public. It came as a surprise to the Mint because the tokens didn’t really have any intrinsic value and people generally weren’t interested in money substitutes. After seeing the success of the tokens, it was decided that a bronze one-cent piece would be issued featuring the Indian Head design. Whilst preparing the coin, the Mint discussed the possibility of a two-cent coin, also made from French bronze, and that’s where the 2 Cent Pieces’ story began.

Design History

During the Civil War, the Reverend Mark R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania suggested that a reference to God should appear on U.S. coinage. He wrote to Treasury of the Secretary Salmon P. Chase, who agreed and then contacted mint director Pollock about developing an appropriate motto for the 2 Cent Piece.

Various mottoes were considered for the coin including God Our Trust and God and Our Country. No one knows for sure where the idea for In God We Trust came from but it was eventually chosen for the 2 Cent Piece, the first coin ever to be inscribed with the phrase. On March 3, 1865, Congress authorized the use of the motto on all U.S. coins with ample space to display it.

By the end of 1863, mint director James Pollock sent Treasury of the Secretary two designs for the 2 Cent Piece, with one with depicting George Washington and the other displaying a shield. Both of the sketches had been prepared by chief engraver James Barton Longacre. The shield design came out on top and was chosen for the coin.

Demand Dropped and Lower Mintage Numbers Followed

First struck in 1864, the 2 Cent Piece initially circulated well and was accepted by the nation. The copper-nickel three-cent piece quickly followed in 1865 and the five-cent piece was introduced a year later. All three coins became important additions to the U.S. monetary system because of the coin shortage caused by the Civil War.

Just under 20 million 2 Cent Pieces were coined in 1864, then a further 13.6 million in 1865. Things seemed to be looking bright for the new coin, however, that all changed when the three-cent and five-cent issues began circulating. By 1866, only 3,177,000 2 Cent Pieces were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, where all the issues were made. Mintage levels actually dropped each year, plunging to a mere 65,000 in 1872. When 1873 came around, it was decided that no more business strikes would be issued, so the United States Mint produced only proofs for collectors.

While demand for the five-cent nickel increased, it was clear that the 2 Cent Piece was no longer needed. As a result, many 2 Cent Pieces were withdrawn throughout the 1870s and recoined into one-cent pieces.

Varieties and Rarities

Even though the 2 Cent Piece series only lasted ten years, it does include some sought-after varieties and rarities, such as the 1864 issue. Some coins dated 1864 have the “Large Motto” while others have the “Small Motto” on the obverse, with the latter displaying IN GOD WE TRUST with smaller and better-spaced lettering. The Small Motto coins are the rarer and more highly valued of the two varieties.

Another rare and desirable variety is the 1867 doubled-die obverse 2 Cent Piece, which is the only major doubled-die in the series. It’s quite an obvious error seen on the IN GOD WE TRUST motto, as well as the arrows and leaves to the left on the obverse. Then there are the “Closed 3” and “Open 3” date varieties of the 1873 proof issue.

Purchase 2 Cent Pieces from Capital Gold Group

Produced for a limited amount of time compared to other cent coins, the 2 Cent Piece is an interesting series that offers some rare varieties. Although not the most popular coins among numismatists, 2 Cent Pieces in excellent condition and rare issues from the series are greatly desired by the collecting community. This is mainly because dealers and collectors know that these coins will increase in value as they age over time.

If you’re wanting to add 2 Cent Pieces to your private collection, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Capital Gold Group. Now is a good time to purchase these coins because, even though limited in supply, they are affordable and can still be collected by date or type. For more information about 2 Cent Pieces or to discuss placing an order, you can call our experts or send a message via our online form.

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The Definitive Gold Guide

SIGN UP AND GET A FREE GUIDEon best pratices in gold investing by Jonathan Rose

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