Auction #881824 1868 United States Two Cents - US Coin Watch This Item
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Bid History:
Closing Date:
Apr 23, 2013
5:08 AM PDT
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RC RealLifeRobot
Jul 29, 2015 5:00 AM PDT

Opening Bid: $1.00 Shipping Contiguous US: $7.95

Coin Information
Name: 1868 United States Two Cents - US Coin
General Information
Year: 1868
Coin Name: United States Two Cents
Denomination: Two Cents
Mintmark: Blank
Mint: Philadelphia
Designer: James Barton Longacre
Coin Composite
Metal Content: 95% Copper, 5% Other
Weight: 96 grains (6.2 grams)
Diameter: 23 millimeters
Edge: Plain
Circulation Statistics
Circulation Strikes: 2,803,750
Proofs: 600
Other Coin Information
Condition: Good (G-6)
Coin History

The two cent piece is often regarded as one of the lease successful coins in all of United States coinage history. While the U.S. produced the two cent piece for only tens years, each year the mintage reduced production due to failing public interests. Despite the coins failure as a medium of exchange, the two cent piece made a lasting contribution to the nation's coinage history. The first coin to use the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, the motto and the coin itself were direct results of the Civil War.

At the end of 1862, the Civil War was in its 21st month. At this time almost all U.S. government coinage had disappeared from circulation due to hoarders and speculators, plus the millions of Americans that were scared for their future. Therefore most Americans set aside every coin they had, from gold and silver pieces to plain base-metal issues. It was because of this that people got very inventive, creating cent-sized bronze tokens that had an implied, or often explicit, promise of redemption in goods, money or services. Call "Civil War Tokens", these gained acceptance by the U.S. people to be useful as a money substitute.

With the overall success of these tokens, the Mint immediately took notice. It had been assumed by the Mint that American's would never tolerate money with such small intrinsic value. Yet, the Civil War tokens proved otherwise, so the Mint prepared a slightly modified one-cent piece that was modeled after these wartime money substitute pieces. The one cent piece was to retain the new, and very popular Indian head design, but it was modified to have a slim, bronze planchet rather than the thick copper-nickel coins that were used at the time. It was during this time that Mint officials considered creating a two cent piece of similar composition, deciding that it would aid in quickly alleviating the coin shortage

It was on December 8th, 1863 that Mint director James Pollock wrote to the treasury service recommending that a two-cent piece be created in French bronze, which was the same alloy chosen for the new slimmer Indian cent. Pollock proposed two designs for the two-cent piece. Both designs were created by the Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. Longacre had also designed the Indian cent, but for the proposed designs he choose the head of George Washington to grace the one, and a shield and arrows for the other, with Pollock and Chase favoring the latter design.

It was up until this point that U.S. coinage carried no reference to any sort of higher power or religious influence. However, due to the strong religious fervor brought out of the American people during the Civil War, a Baptist minister, the Reverend Mark R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, wrote to Secretary Chase urging that additions were made for "the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.". Watkinson replied that "This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed.", and with that the motto was included on the two-cent piece.

Initially Watkinson created the motto GOD OUT TRUST, which was on the first trial striking of the two-cent piece. But, it has been theorized by Numismatic scholar Walter Breen that the final motto chosen, IN GOD WE TRUST, was influenced by the motto of Chase's alma mater, Brown University, which was IN DEO SPERAMUS, a Latin phrase that means "In God we hope".

Congress passes a law on April 22, 1864 that gave Treasury officials discretionary authority concerning the inscriptions chosen over the nation's minor coins. While this didn't specifically command the motto IN GOD WE TRUST for the two-cent piece, it did give Treasury officials the power to decide. It was on March 3, 1865 that this authorization was extended to gold and silver coins, and specifically IN GOD WE TRUST was mentioned. Use of the motto was not required until 1908, but it applied only to gold and silver coins. Then in 1955, Congress enacted legislation requiring the motto to be inscribed on all U.S. coins.

The two-cent piece has the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the obverse of the coins, displayed on a ribbon above the shield with the date directly below. The reverse has a simple wreath surrounding the denomination, 2 CENTS, and

it is encircled by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

When the two-cent piece made its first appearance, Americans readily embraced it. That same year there was a massive amount of two-cent pieces produced, with nearly 20 million business strike examples made. In 1865 output was also rather high reaching 13.6 million coins produced for the year. While acceptance and mintage levels decreased dramatically after the war, other coins began to reappear in circulation. Fewer than 3.2 million two-cent pieces were struck in 1866, and by 1870 production plummeted to below the one million mark. Business strikes hit the all time low in 1872, when the Mint issued only 65,000 pieces for circulation. 1873 was the coin's final year, with only proofs having been make. Overall, the Mint produced just over 45.6 million business-strikes and just over 7.000 proofs made in each of the series' 10 years.

It is because of its small size and the lack of significant rarities, that a set completion by date and mint is easily accomplished for any collector. Another reason for this is because Philadelphia was the only mint to produce this coin. It is popular practice to collect the series by type alone. The two-cent piece does include some interesting varieties, even though it doesn't have any branch-mint issues. The best know rarities are the Small Motto and Large Motto issues of 1864. Some of that year's two-cent pieces, IN GOD WE TRUST is noticeable smaller and has fatter lettering. The Small Motto pieces are much more rare than the Large Motto pieces and therefore have much higher premiums in every grade lever. There are also scarce and valuable 1867 double-die error pieces and proof-only 1873 issues that come in two varieties, Closed 3 and Open 3 in the date.

Although it is unusually short and doesn't include a single branch-mint issue, the two-cent series does contain some interesting varieties. The best-known are the Small Motto and Large Motto issues of 1864. On some of that year's two-cent pieces, IN GOD WE TRUST has noticeably smaller and fatter lettering. These Small Motto pieces are considerably scarcer than their Large Motto counterparts and command much higher premiums in every grade level. There also is a scarce and valuable 1867 doubled-die error, and the proof-only 1873 issues come in two varieties, with a Closed 3 and an Open 3 in the date.

The first places to show wear on this design are on the word WE, on the arrow points and on the tips of the leaves. These two-cent pieces are easily available in grades up to Mint State-65 and Proof-65, but anything above that is hard to find. Mint state pieces have much high premiums when they are fully red in color.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Breen, Walter, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, F.C.I. Press/Doubleday, New York, 1988. Flynn, Kevin, Getting Your Two Cents Worth, Published by Kevin Flynn and Robert Paul, Rancocas, NJ, 1994. Taxay, Don, The U.S. Mint and Coinage, Arco Publishing Co., New York, 1966. Vermeule, Cornelius, Numismatic Art in America, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1971. Yeoman, R.S., A Guide Book of United States Coins, 47th Edition, Western Publishing Co., Racine, WI, 1993.

* Stock photo used, actual coin received will have same specifications, but will not be exact coin pictured.

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