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    

1864 Pcgs Two Cent Piece, Large Motto, Red Brown, Ms 64 Rb ** Sharp & Lustrous1864 Two Cent Piece, Red, Sharp & Lustrous Solid Gem Bu++ Rd, ** Free Shipping!1870 Two Cent Piece Us Semi Key Bold Date * Unc Low Mint Coin Antique Era Lot #71864 Civil War Era Two Cent Piece Choice Vf * Circulated Us Coin1864 Large Motto Two Cent Piece U.s. Coin Currency1864 Two Cent Piece 1871 Two Cent Piece, Very Sharp Choice Bu++ Better Date, ** Free Shipping!1864 Large Motto 2c Bu Unc Cuds And Die Clashes NeatFabulous Condition Us 1864 Copper Two 2 Cents American Coin1865 Two Cent Piece Fancy 5 2c Ngc Au53 1864 2 Cent Piece: Sharp Strike-smooth & Lusterous Surfaces-great Color-unc!!! 1867 Two Cent Piece Pcgs Au55 Large Motto1864 P Us Two Cent Piece Large Motto 02c Ngc Au58bn Au 58 Bn United States Coin2 Cent Piece 18641871 Two-cent Piece "pcgs Au Details" *free S/h After 1st Item*1865 Two Cent Piece☆rare☆ 1864 $0.02 Two Cent 2c Small Motto Bn, "sought After Civil War Issue"1870 Two Cent Piece, Popular Early Series Copper! ** Free Shipping!1869 Two Cent Piece Circulated Nice Details!!Old Rare Vintage Antique Civil War Relic 1865 Two Cent Coin Rare Date** 1864, 1865 & 1868 Two Cent Piece Scarce Old Coins** Copper 1867 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping** 1864 & 1865 Two Cent Piece Scarce Old Coins** 1865 Two Cent Piece Set Of 21864 Two Cent Reserve!2 Cent Piece Lot (3) 2-1864 &1-1866 -old U.s. Coins All Culls W/ Readable Dates1872 2 Cent Pcgs Vf201871 Two (2) Cent Piece Nice F Detail Lightly Cleaned No Other Distractions1864 2 Cent Coin With "small Motto"1864 Two, 2 Cent Coin, Xf Condition, No Reserve, Free Shipping1865 Two Cent Piece ~ Bu Gem Rb ~ Exceptional Coin 1871 Two Cent Piece1864 Two Cent Piece 2¢ Full Detail Copper 1867 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free ShippingCopper 1865 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free ShippingCopper 1864 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1864 Two Cent Piece Circulated Nice Details!!Two Cent Piece Lot (64, 65, 66, 68)1869 Two Cent Piece, Post Civil War Coin Rare Estate Sale Free Shipping!! (6884)Copper 1866 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1865 Civil War Copper Two Cent Piece ~~~ An Extremely Nice Coin ~~~ 1865 Two Cent Piece Xf-au 1864 U.s. Two Cent Piece1864 Two Cent Piece ** Free Shipping!Copper 1865 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1866 Two Cent Piece, Civil War Coin Rare Estate Sale Coin Free Shipping!! (6743)1865 2c Two Cent Piece Vintage Us Copper Coin #sl5 Very Sharp Nice Looking Coin1867 Two Cent Piece ☆ ☆ Am11291865 - 1868 - 1869 Two Cent Coins ~ Lot Of 4 ~2 Cent Pieces Lot Of 7 Two Cents 1864 1865 18681865 Two Cent 2¢ Xf Extra Fine Great Looking Original Type Set Coin!1865 Two Cent Piece Circulated Nice Details!!1864 Two-cent Piece *free S/h After 1st Item*1865 U.s. Two (2) Cent Piece. Civil War Era Type Coin. No Reserve!Copper 1870 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1864 2c Two-cent Piece Large MottoOutstanding 1864 Two Cents1864 Two Cents 2c Xf ? 1864 Two Cent Piece Civil War Era Ex-rare 1867 2 Cent Piece Us & German (g-5 Brass A-1 + A-5) Coin 3rd Reich Nazi