Two Cent Pieces – 1864-1873

The two-cent coin was produced in the United States from 1864-1873 with decreasing mintages throughout that time. The two-cent piece was made of 95% copper with tin and zinc making up the remainder. It was very slightly smaller than a modern U.S. quarter. The two-cent piece was designed by James B. Longacre, the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, and was the first coin of the United States to bear the national motto “In God We Trust.”

The obverse (so designated because it bears the date) has a shield with a ribbon over it bearing the motto, IN GOD WE TRUST. Behind the shield are two arrows, and a branch with leaves (most likely an olive branch).

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

The reverse has a wreath made up of several different plant components surrounding the words 2 CENTS. The words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surround the wreath.

The design is similar to the shield nickel of the same period, which was also designed by Longacre.

Two cent pieces were minted in both proof and regular issues. Although the proof mintages were normally smaller than the regular issue mintages more proofs of high grade survive as they were always special collector coins.

The two cent piece was authorized by Congress on April 22, 1864 by the Coinage Act, the same law that eliminated the coins in 1873 also did away with the half dime and the silver three-cent piece (the copper-nickel three cent piece continued to be minted through 1889). During the mid- and late-1970s there was some discussion about reviving the two-cent denomination (in conjunction with reducing the mintage of the one-cent piece) but nothing came of it.

While all two-cent pieces are of the same type, many die varieties exist. The most significant of these are the Small Motto and Large Motto varieties of 1864. The Small Motto is rarer and more valuable. Doubled dies, die cracks and other mint errors are often encountered in this series.

Mintage Figures

* 1864 – 19,847,500
* 1865 – 13,640,000
* 1866 – 3,177,000
* 1867 – 2,938,750
* 1868 – 2,803,750
* 1869 – 1,546,500
* 1870 – 861,250
* 1871 – 721,250
* 1872 – 65,000
* 1873 – Proof only, about 1,100 were struck.


Designer: James Barton Longacre
Mintage: See Above
Denomintion: Two Cents
Diameter: ±23 millimeters
Metal content: 95% copper – 5% Tin and Zinc
Weight: ±96 grains (±6.2 grams)

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