Two Cent Pieces

In 1864, the Indian Head Cent was minted in bronze for the first time. This same year, a bronze two cent piece was introduced. The denomination lasted only until 1873. The obverse of the coin featured a shield and was identical to the design of the shield nickel (minted from 1866 to 1883).


In God We Trust on Coins

The two cent piece was the first US coin to have the motto "In God We trust." After being lobbied by Christian Americans, Salmon Chase, the secretary of the treasury wrote to the director of the mint with a request: "The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition."

The result of this was the creation of the motto "In God We Trust." With time, the motto became controverial. The first objections came from Christians who felt that putting this "cheap" motto on coins was degrading to thier religion. In 1907, Teddy Roosevelt wrote: "My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege."

Later on, atheists and agnositcs became offended. This led to the case Aranow vs. United States in 1970,in which the Supreme Court upheld the motto because it has "lost through rote repetition any significant religious content." Perhaps Roosevelt was right that the motto does more harm than good as it has managed to offend people ranging from devout Christian to diehard atheist.

The 1865 Two Cent Experiment

In 1865, an experimental pattern two cent piece was struck, in which layers of silver were superimposed onto the copper. How successful was this? Look at the picture and judge for yourself. (The mint regarded the experiment as a disaster).

Collecting two cent pieces

A complete two cent piece collection is quite minimal -- only nine coins produce a complete regular issue set. Since this is not enough to justify an entire coin album, Dansco combines the coins with the nickel three cent pieces in their album. Regular issues were only made from 1864 to 1872, with rare proofs made in 1873. All of the regular issue dates up to 1871 can be found with careful hunting on auction sites like ebay and can be reasonably priced -- even in higher grades. The 1872 coin, with a mintage of only 65,000 is pricier and more elusive. There are two major varieties of 1864: small motto and large motto. The small motto version is quite scarce.