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    

Attractive 1864 Pcgs Ms64rb Large Motto Two Cent Piece With Trueview1865 Two Cent Piece, Sharp Mint Luster1866 Two Cent Piece, Red Brown, Beautiful Gem Bu++ Rb, ** Free Shipping!1871 Better Date 2-cent Piece, Ngc Ms63 Bn, Ddo, Unlisted? Davidkahnrarecoins1870 Two Cent Piece, Red Brown, Razor Sharp Solid Gem Bu++ Better Date Rb!1864 Two Cent Piece ** Free Shipping!1865 Two-cent 2c Ms 65 Rb Red Brown Ngc1872 2c Two Cent Piece ~nice Circulated Coin~ Rare Date1864 Two Cent Piece, Large Motto, Red Brown, Pq Razor Sharp Solid Gem Bu++ Rb!1865 Two Cent Piece, Red Brown, Gorgeous Gem Bu++ Rb, ** Free Shipping!Lot Of 8 Two Cent Pieces Some With Issues 2 Cent .99 No Reserve Free Shipping1864 To 1871 2c Two-cent Pieces1871 Two Cent Piece, Sharp & Gorgeous Red Brown, Solid Gem Bu++ Rb Better Date!Lot Of 7 Mixed Us 2/two Cent Piece 2c Coins 1868 1864 1870 Ag-vf Details1868 Two Cent Piece ** Free Shipping!1865 Two-cent Piece *free Shipping After First Item*1868 Civil War America's Short Lived 2 Cent Coin1873 Closed 3 2c Two Cent Piece Pcgs Cac Pr65+rbLot Of 9 Two Cent Pieces Piece 1864 - 1869 All Very Good - Very Fine Coins1864 Estate Find Two Cent Piece!! #c5877Lot Of 6 Two 2c Cent Piece (es1864 Us Two Cent Piece! Vf Details! Old Us Coins! Full "motto"!1868 2 Cent Coin Vg Original From Estate Starts @1.99c1873 Shield Nickel *ngc Ms-63* 5 Cents Open 3 Variety Sharp Bright LustrousLot Of 6 Two 2c Cent Piece (es1869 Two Cent Piece - Very Good Details 1868 Two-cent Piece *free Shipping After First Item*1870 Two Cent Penny - Nice Circulated Condition - 6su-21869 Two Cent Piece Coin Xf #4171864 Two Cent Piece Coin Xf #4181865 2 Cent Piece - Very Good Details 1864 And 1865 2c Two-cent Pieces1864 Two Cent Piece! No Reserve 1865 U.s. Two Cent Piece * Circulated * They Are Not Making Anymore Of These !Three Better Grade Two Cent Pieces; 1864 In F, 1865 In Xf, And 1866 In XfUs Coin 1865 2 Cent Shield Better Date1871 2 Cent Piece1868 2c Cent Piece1864 U.s. Two Cent Piece * Circulated * They Are Not Making Anymore Of These2 Cent Piece 1864 ...................7-21--71865 2 Cent Coin Vg+ Original From Estate Starts @1.99c1865 Two Cent Piece - Partial Motto Still Shows On The Ribbon1867 U.s. Two Cent Piece * Circulated * They Are Not Making Anymore Of These1864 2 Cent1864 Major Rotation Reverse Rare Unc++++ Two Cent Piece1867 Two Cent Piece Coin 2 Cents Fine1867 Bn Two Cents Coin (xf) On Bronze "" A Nice Brown Beauty ""1865 Two Cent Piece Lot#a4231869 Us 2 Cent Piece1864 Two Cent Pieces1867 Two Cent Piece 1869 Copper Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1868 United States Copper Two Cent Piece1868 2 Cent Piece1872 Two Cent Piece. Good1871 Two Cent Peice2 1865 2 Cent CoinsΩ 1867 Two Cent Unc Details1864 Two Cent Coin, Beautiful Detail!Civil War Era 1865 Us 2 Cent Penny. #8