The uncertainty of the U.S. Civil War disrupted everyday life in a number of ways. In the realm of money, people began hoarding coins: They thought that if the North lost, coins would be more likely to retain their value than paper money. To address the ensuing shortage of coins, in April 22, 1864, Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to begin producing a bronze two-cent piece, which would be made from the same alloy as the Indian Head penny.

The obverse of the two-cent coin featured a shield, with the year underneath it and the motto “In God We Trust” above it. In fact, this was the motto’s first appearance on American money, prompted by a rise in religious sentiment during the Civil War. After appearing on the 1864 two-cent coin, the motto was included on a variety of other coins in 1866. In 1956, Congress made it the official motto of the United States; in 1957, it was added to all American paper currency.

The two-cent piece had actually been proposed earlier in the century—in 1806 and again in 1836. Some speculate that third proposal succeeded because the Postal Service had recently set its local mail rate at two cents.

The first year’s two-cent coins actually came in two varieties, known today as small motto and large motto. As their names imply, the large motto coins have “In God We Trust” printed in larger type than the small motto coins. The small motto two-cent pieces are considered scarcer today than their counterparts.

The two-cent coin did not last long. With the rise of the nickel and the easing of coin hoarding, the two-cent coin fell out of popularity after the Civil War and was discontinued in 1873, making it one of the shortest-lived coins in American history.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1870 Two Cent 2c Ngc Ms63 Bn Mint State 63 Brown1871 Two Cent Piece*Choice Premium Fine++/vf 1864 Two "2" Cent Shield Piece Coin Free Shipping1866 Two Cents! Free Shipping!1871 Key Date Very High Grade Two Cent Piece From Big Collection1868 Two Cent Piece*1864 2c Two Cent Large Motto Re-colored Re-toned Ms60 Details No Reserve 1864 Civil War Era Two Cent Piece About Uncirculated - Hints Of Red ~ Nice!1864 2 Cent, Pcgs Au501872 Two Cent Piece Xf Detail / Bold We In Motto1867 Two Cent Piece1864 Two Cent Piece*1869 Two Cent Piece Xf * Free Shipping *1865 Two Cent Piece....civil Reserve! 1865 Two "2" Cent Shield Piece, Very Nice Extra Fine!1864 Two Cents! Free Shipping!1864 Small Motto 2c Ngc F 12 Bn1864 U.s. 2 Cent Piece 150 Years Old***fast, Free Shipping!!Lot Of 5 Us Two Cent Pieces 2 Cent 1864 1866 1868 1869 & 1870 E224eGorgeous Au+ Details 1865 Two "2" Cent Shield Piece Coin Free ShippingTwo Cent Piece 1864 Ch Unc Red Toned Beauty! Stunning Rare High Grade Type Coin1867 Two Cent Reserve!1864 Lm Two Cent Piece, High Grade - Great Color, Red ,cud , Rpd , Die Crack !!!Choice Original Vg+ Tougher 1866 Two "2" Cent Shield Piece Coin Free ShippingOld Us Civil War Coin! 1865 2-cent Piece Nice Coin! (c5)1864 Two Cents 2 Cent Piece Vtg Original Civil War 2c Coin1864 Two-cent Piece**1868 Two Cents Scarce Old Coin ** 1864 Two Cent Piece1864 Two Cent Piece 2cp Near Unc Near Uncirculated Cleaned L@@k1871 Two Cent Piece Ngc Xf 45 Bn1964 Two Cent Piece - Nicer Grade - Full "we" - Tow Cents - 2c1868 Two Cent Reserve!1864 Shield 2 Cents Nice Uncirculated BrownNice Original Xf+ 1865 Two "2" Cent Shield Piece Coin Free ShippingVery Nice Xf+/au Details 1867 Two "2" Cent Shield Piece Coin Free Shipping1864 Two Cent Piece ~ Rev. Rotated Almost 45Nice Original Extra Fine Xf 1866 Two "2" Cent Shield Piece Coin Free Shipping1864 2c Two Cent Piece ...nice Coin!!!Lot Of Six Civil War Era Two Cent Coins - (5)1864 & (1)18651864 Civil War Era Two Cent Piece Xf * Free Shipping *Unique Rev.180 Die Rotation & Die Die Break 1864 Two "2" Cent Piece Coin Nice!Old Us Coins Rare Choice 1865 Stunning Civil War Two Cent Nice 2c Piece 1865 X3 Shield Two Cent Copper Coin Lot @ K 23751865 Two Cent Piece Civil War Era 2cents Copper Coin Look!1870 Two Cent Piece1865 Two Cent Coin Free S/h!!1865 Us 2 Cent Piece Dug Coin Metal Detector FindSix-coin Set Civil War Era 1864-1869 Us Two-cent Pieces1865 Two Cent Coin Free S/h!!Lot: Four (4) Two Cent Pieces - 1864, 1865, 1867, 1869 - No Reserve1864 Two Cent Piece In "vf" Condition1864 Us Two Cent Piece - 2c Coin - Anacs Vg 10 Lg Motto Ddo Fs-0011864 Two Cents! Free Shipping!High Quality 2 Cent 1864 Nice High Grade Free ShippingHigh Quality 2 Cent 1864 Nice High Grade Free Shipping1865/1865 Two Cent: F: Fs-1302: Bold Repunched Date: Rpd: No Reserve!1865 2 Cent Piece1865 Us Two Cent Piece! Very Fine Details! Old Us Coins!1864 Two Cent Coin United States No Reserve