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    

1868 Two Cent Piece. Borderline Uncirculated1868 Two Cent Piece Pcgs Ms 63 Red Better Date Early Copper Type Coin 1868 Two Cent Piece, Very Nice Bu++ Copper Coin, ** Free Shipping!Old Vintage Antique Civil War Relic Very Rare 1864 Two Cent Piece Limited Coin 1866 Two Cent Pcgs Ms64 Red Old Rattler Holder1869 Two Cent Piece. Mint State #2Fantastic 1869 Two CentsOutstanding 1864 Two Cents "repunched Date"1866 Two Cent Piece High Grade Nice Original Coin1864 Two Cent Piece 2c Civil War Year Coin **scratched Bu** Fb021864 Two 2 Cent Coin With Small Motto1868 Two Cent Piece Very High Grade No Reserve1864 Civil War Era Two Cent Piece Choice Xf * Circulated Us Coin *1864 Two Cent Piece - First Year, Strong Partial Motto! Please View2 Cent Piece Lot 1864,1865 Culls View Pics Old U.s. Civil War Era Coin .99 Start** 1865 Two Cent Piece Full "we" Scarce Old Coin** 1882 Shield Nickel Bu, Possible Proof(1) 1864, (3) 1865 And (1) 1866 Two Cents1864 Two Cent Piece, Civil War Era Copper Coin ** Free Shipping!1864-1865 Shield 2 Cent Pieces And Coronet Head 3 Cent Piece Lot (3) Coins1864 Civil War Era Two Cent Piece 1864 Two Cent Piece Coin - Xf Civil War Era 2Old Vintage Antique Civil War Relic Very Rare 1865 Indian Head Penny Limited 1866 2 Cent Piece Pcgs Ms65rb #s1865/1865 Mint State Lots Of Luster Make An Offer1864 2c Large Motto Bn1866 Two Cent PiecePcgs Graded 1864 2 Cent Large Motto Pcgs Price Guide Value $42Lot Of 3 Pennies - 1841 Large Cent Sized 1 Cent, 1864 2 Cents Small Motto1865 Two Cent Piece, Red Brown Near Gem Bu++ Copper, ** Free Shipping!1871 Two Cent Piece - Good** 1864 Two Cent Piece Scarce Old Coin** Rare 1871 Two 2 Cent Coin**** High GradeCopper 1865 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1864 2-cent Bronze Piece Ngc Au53 Bn, Doubled Die Obverse, Fs-1101 Ddo Two Cents1864 Two Cent Piece Large Motto1864 2 Cent Peice Large Motto 2c1864 Two Cent Piece - Very Fine (3) U.s. 2 Cent Copper Coins-1865, '70, '71-nice Coins!!!lovely, Too!! Lqqk!1864 Two Cent Piece ☆ ☆ Ah02071866 Copper Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1864 2c Large Motto Coin #1261869 Two Cent Piece - Very Good Us 30 Coin Mixed Lot. 1864 Two Cents, Indian Heads, Buffalo Nickels, Large Cents1868 Two Cent Piece ** Free Shipping!1865 Two-cent 2c - Certified & Graded Pcgs Au581864 Two Cent Piece Reverse Gouge No Reserve1864 Copper Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1866 Two Cent Piece - Nice Starter Or Type, Partial Motto, Bold Date!Copper 1865 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1865 Copper Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1867 Two Cent Piece...low Auction Start At .99 Cents....Civil War Era 1865 2 Cent Error Coin??? W/free Shipping1865 Two Cent Piece, Red Brown, Very Nice Gem Bu++ Copper ** Free Shipping!1864 Copper Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1869 Two Cent Piece1865 U.s. Two Cent Coin Grades Fine+ Or Better. Nice Coin! S+h .99 Cents!1864 Two Cent Piece Civil War Era Free/shipping1864 $0.02 Coin1870 Two Cent Piece - Good