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    

Old Rare Vintage Antique Civil War Relic 1865 Two Cent Confederate Rebel Coin1864 Two Cent Piece, Sharply Struck Solid Gem Bu++ Red Brown Copper, ** Free S/h1865 Two Cent Piece, Scarce In Ms Conditions! ** Free Shipping!1864 2-cent Piece Many Letters Doubled - Error Rare Old Type Coin Large Motto Bn1864 Civil War Era Two Cent Piece Au 180 Degree Rotated Reverse * Free Shipping1864 Two Cent Piece, Tough & Highly Desired Series, Choice Bu+ ** Free Shipping!2 Cent Pieces (4 Total)1865 Two Cent Piece, Sharply Struck Gem, ** Free Shipping!(10) Two Cent Pieces Lot - Good - 1864 X5; 1865 X5 (#33)1868 Two Cent Piece Graded Au58 By Anacs1864 Large Motto 2c Two Cent Piece Graded Xf45bn By Ngc(12) Two Cent Pieces Lot - Ag - 1864 X4; 65 X4; 66 X2; 68 X1; 69 X1 (#31)1865 U.s. Two Cent Piece Coin - Au -#051904Sweet Genuine Civil War Era 1865 Us 2 Two Cent Piece Coin With No Reserve!1868 Two Cent Reserve!1864 Ngc Ms63rb 2 Cent Piece(13) Two Cent Pieces Lot - Good - 1864 X3; 65 X3; 66 X2; 67 X2; 68 X2; 69 (#35)Choice Extra Fine+ Xf 1864 Civil War Dt. Two "2" Cent Piece Coin Ccc Nr Auction!U S Two Cent Piece Starter Set (#2)Lot Of 15 1889 Indian Head Pennies Free ShippingLot Of 5 1894 Indian Head Pennies Free ShippingPremium Quality Pq 1865 Two-cent Piece Pcgs Ms63rb "old Green Label Slab"1864 2c Small Motto Us Coin Pcgs F12 No Reserve1865 Shield 2 Cent Outstanding Proof Red1868 Two Cent Piece! 14 Day Satisfaction Quarantee1865 Two Cent Piece Genuine Genuine Details 2c Pcgs Au 50 Bn2c Two Cent 1864 1865 Civil War Chocolate Brown 2 Coin Lot No Reserve Nr! 155.1864 2c Two Cent Large Motto Au About Uncirculated Really Nice Original Coin1865 Two Cent Piece Rare Old U.s. Type Coin N/rU S Two Cent Piece - Miscellaneous Lot1864 Us Two Cent Piece ~ True Au ~ Estate Item3-1864 1865 1868 & 1- No Date Shield 2¢ Two Cent Piece Six (6) Coin Lot ** K58391864 U.s. 2 Cent Piece 2c 151 Years Old Philadelphia Full (we)***no Reserve!1864 Shield 2 Cents Nice Uncirculated BrownLot Of Two Two-cent Coins - 1864 & 1865; No Reserve2c Two Cent 1867 Post Civil War Type Huge Die Crack Obverse Reverse Legends Nr!.U.s. 2 Cent Piece 1872 Key Date 1868 Two Cent Piece ** Free Shipping!1864 Two Cent Piece Problem Free Civil War Coin2c Two Cent 1864 Ef Large Motto Rich Original Chocolate Brown Rev. Verdigris.1865 United States 2 Cent Piece Coin (2 Cent Piece Coin) Free Shipping1864 Small Moto Two Cent Piece 2c Pcgs Vg 10 Bn1868 2 Cent Piece - Stunning High Grade Coin, Very Attractive1864 2c Two Cent Piece Ms Uncirculated Details Whizzed1864 Shield Two Cent Icg Au-58 Details Large MottoLot Of 15 1889 Indian Head Pennies Free ShippingTwo Cent (set) - 1864(lm) & 1865 - Nice Dates - (2 Coin Lot) 1865 Two Cent Piece. Xf Condition. Tougher Early Copper Coin !!Old Us Coins 1864 Obsolete Civil War Two Cent 2 C Shield Type Piece ChoiceLot Of 2 Two 2c Cent Piece 1864 1870 (rsLot Of 5 1894 Indian Head Pennies Free Shipping1868 Two Cent Reserve!Lot Of 15 1889 Indian Head Pennies Free ShippingLot Of 2 Two 2c Cent Piece 1864 1865 (rnLot Of 5 - Two Cent Pieces , 1864, 1865-plain 5, 1865-fancy 5, 1866 & 1868U S Two Cent Piece Starter Set (#1)1864 Shield Two Cent--small Motto--rare--fine/very FineRare 1864 Two Cent Piece – Grades “very Fine”1865 Two Cent Piece Au DetailCirculated 1868 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping