Adam Starkey

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Two Cent Pieces

The two-cent piece was an unusual and short-lived coin first struck during the Civil War in 1864. With a large shield, arrows, and wreath dominating the obverse design, art historian Cornelius Vermeule considered the 2-cent piece “the most Gothic and the most expressive of the Civil War” of American coins. This coin is especially notable, as it is the first to bear the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Reverend Mark R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, PA, wrote a letter to President Chase in 1861 proposing that some reference to God be placed on America’s coinage during this dark time of war. Chase agreed and instructed the U.S. Mint Director to design a coin expressing this national recognition, writing “no nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense.” The two-cent coin was initially quite popular due to the lack of abundant metallic coinage in circulation secondary to public hoarding. However, demand dropped rapidly, and the coin was considered superfluous after the introduction of the nickel 5-cent piece in 1866.

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