Two Cent Pieces 1864 – 1873

Learn About the Coinage Act of 1864 and Two-Cent Pieces

As the Civil war raged on in 1864, the US Mint was dealing with massive shortages of not only gold and silver coins but even the copper-nickel Indian Head cents. The staff at the Mint had been complaining anyway that the copper-nickel coins were wreaking havoc on the coin dies that were being used. The solution for the cents at least was to change the composition to bronze.

But while that was the solution to the ”die breaking” it was not a solution to the hoarding. The two-cent piece was an idea “whose time had not yet come.” As early as 1806, a Senator from Connecticut had suggested a two-cent piece coin. The desire for a Two cent piece once again came to life in 1836 but this time the US Mint had suggested it and Engraver Christian Gobrecht created a pattern that was attractive but the Treasury officials decided against it at that time.

(The 1836 Gobrecht pattern Two Cent Piece.)

With the Mint running out of nickel and running completely out of one-cent coins, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Coinage Act of 1864. The Act made base metal coins legal tender for the United States and allowed for the issuance of one-cent coins in bronze. It also authorized a new denomination – a two-cent piece as well as outlawed the use of private tokens (which we call Civil War Tokens) as lawful money.

Before the passage of the Coin Act of 1864, some pattern coins were struck to ensure that they would be easy to strike, provide detail and would be stackable. Out of a dozen or more pattern coins, two 1863 patterns came very close to the approved design.

(The two Pattern coins had different mottoes on the coins “God Our Trust” (left) and “In God We Trust” (right) designed by Engraver James B. Longacre.).

The mottoes on coinage were prescribed in the Coinage Act of 1837. Longacre’s patterns used variations of it but a shield with a wreath, the motto and date was the accepted obverse and the numeral “2” the word “CENTS” inside a wreath and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” around it. The shield on the obverse symbolized our strength and unity as did the stripes. The reverse has a laurel wreath symbolizing victory. Seeing this new motto on the new Two Cent Piece made the coin and the motto popular. The public, weary of war, liked having “God on our side” and on our money!  

(The Small and Large Motto varieties of the 1864 Two Cent Piece.)

In 1864, nearly 20 million coins were struck and two distinct die varieties emerged. The Large Motto variety was much more common and the Small Motto variety was the much rarer one. The size of the letters gives it away as does the stem of a leaf touching the banner on which the motto is displayed.

After the initial year’s run of nearly 20 million coins, the enthusiasm waned a bit. The Civil War was coming to a merciful end and as commerce picked up speed, merchants were more interested in the new nickel than in the two-cent piece.

1865 and 1866 were uneventful and production dropped from 13.6 Million coins in 1865 to slightly over 3 million coins. In 1867, just fewer than 3 million coins were struck and now two varieties were struck a normal date and a Doubled Die obverse.  

Between 1868 and 1872, the mintages dropped each year and no varieties were struck. 1868 Had a high mintage of 2.8 million while 1872 had only 65,000 coins struck. 1873 was the final year for Two Cent Pieces with only 600 Proofs and no business strikes struck. But that year did have two varieties – the Close 3 and the Open 3. The Close 3 are the original Proof coins struck at the Mint and the Open 3 coins are alleged restrikes made at the Mint for the so-called “nickel set of proof coins” (minus the silver coins) that were for sale to collectors through the Philadelphia Mint. Expand your collection today and shop our assortment of Two-Cent pieces, dating from 1864 to 1873.

DateTypeMintageFine ValueUnc Value
1864 Small MottoTwo Cent Piece19,822,500$450$1,750
1864 Large MottoTwo Cent PieceIncluded$35$175
1865, 1866, 1867Two Cent Pieces13 Million to          2 Million$35$150
1867 Doubled DieTwo Cent Piece2,938,750$300$1,500
1868 to 1871Two Cent Pieces2.8 Million to 721,250$100$400
1872Two Cent Piece65,000$750$3,000
1873 ProofsTwo Cent Piece600$1,500$3,500

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