Two Cent Pieces, 1864-1873

Two Cent Pieces, 1864-1873

The Two-Cent Piece was issued over a ten year span from 1864 through 1873. It saw its origins in the onset of the Civil War, a time when most one-cent pieces were quickly pulled from circulation and hoarded. This lack of circulating copper coinage brought on an avalanche of privately made copper tokens. The introduction of the Two-Cent Piece in April of 1864 was aimed at replacing these copper tokens with legal U.S. coinage. The Two-Cent Piece was an odd denomination then (and now) and never received the widespread acceptance that the government hoped for. After issuing millions of them in 1864 and 1865, production of these coins dropped sharply. By 1872, a mere 65,000 were issued for circulation, while in 1873 only a small number of proofs for collectors were produced.

The Two-Cent Piece does have the honor of being the first U.S. coin to bear the motto In God We Trust added to its obverse, due mainly to a surge in religious sentiment during the Civil War. Once that crisis had passed, however, the need for these unpopular coins dropped sharply and the series was discontinued altogether in 1873.

Designed by: James B. Longacre
Issued Date: 1864-1873
Composition: Bronze (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc)
Diameter: 23 mm.
Weight: 96 grains
Edge: Plain
Total Business Strike mintage: 45,601,000
Total Proof Strike mintage: 7,500 (estimated)

The two-cent piece was initially created as a pattern in 1836 but did not see circulation until 1864. The obverse depicts a dominant shield design with tow arrows behind, surrounded by a wreath and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on a flowing ribbon above. The date is at the bottom border and centered.

Examples struck between 1864 and 1869 are usually plentiful in any grade Good through AU. Uncirculated pieces are scarce, and superb uncirculated pieces with full original mint color are quite elusive. Rarities in the series include the 1864 Small Motto, the 1869/8 overdate, and the Proof-only 1873.

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