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 Two Cent Piece, Sharply Struck Solid Gem Bu++ Red Brown Copper, ** Free S/hOld Rare Vintage Antique Civil War Relic 1865 Two Cent Confederate Rebel Coin1864 Civil War Era Two Cent Piece Au 180 Degree Rotated Reverse * Free Shipping1865 Two Cent Piece, Sharply Struck Gem, ** Free Shipping!1864 2c Two Cent Large Motto Au About Uncirculated Really Nice Original Coin1864 2c Small Motto Us Coin Pcgs F12 No ReserveSweet Genuine Civil War Era 1865 Us 2 Two Cent Piece Coin With No Reserve!1864 Two Cents 2 Cent Piece Choice Uncirculated Red Brown1865 Shield 2 Cent Outstanding Proof RedChoice Extra Fine+ Xf 1864 Civil War Dt. Two "2" Cent Piece Coin Ccc Nr Auction!1868 Two Cent Reserve!1864 Large Motto Two Cent Piece Icg Gem Ms65rb1866 Two ¢ Cent Piece - Ngc Au Details WhizzedLot Of 2 Two 2c Cent Piece 1869 1870 (ri1868 Two Cent Piece ** Free Shipping!Circulated Copper 1865 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1864 Small Moto Two Cent Piece 2c Pcgs Vg 10 BnSuperb 1867 Two Cent Piece Gem Uncirculated1865 Two Cent Piece Genuine Genuine Details 2c Pcgs Au 50 BnLot Of 2 Two 2c Cent Piece 1864 1865 (rn1865 Two Cent Piece Au Detail1871 Us Two Cent 2 Cent Piece- Nice Color- Rare Date! Full Rim- Partial W In We1865 Copper 2 Cent Piece - Gorgeous Coin!!1864 Us Two Cent Coin Spring Cleaning Some Early Copper - Free Shipping1865 Two 2 Cent Piece. Civil War Coin Currency.1864 Shield Two Cent--small Motto--rare--fine/very Fine1864 2c Two Cent Piece Ms Uncirculated Details Whizzed1864-p 2c Shield Type Coin ( Brilliant Uncirculated )U.s. 2 Cent Piece 1872 Key Date 1864 U.s. 2 Cent Piece 2c 151 Years Old Philadelphia Full (we)***no Reserve!1871 2cCirculated Copper 1865 Philadelphia Mint Two Cent Coin Free Shipping1866 Two Cent Piece (e88)Two Scarce U.s. 2 Cent Pieces 1865 & 18671864 Large Motto Two Cents Copper Bronze Type Civil War Coin 150 Years Old *no=r1864 Ngc Two Cent Piece, Large Motto, Ngc Ms 64 Rb ** Eye-appealing Copper!1871 2 Cent Coin1864 Two Cent Piece Repunched Date1865 2 Cent Coin Nice DetailOld Us Coins 1864 Obsolete Civil War Two Cent 2 C Shield Type Piece Choice1864 Two Cent Piece1864 2 Cent Piece - Very Fine Details 1864, 1866, & 1869 Two Cent Copper Shield Coins. Auction!1865-p 2c Shield ( Brilliant Uncirculated ) Red/ Brown1865 Us Two Cent Coin Spring Cleaning Some Early Copper - Free Shipping1868 Two Cent Reserve!1865 Two Cent Piece A Very Fine CoinLot Of 2 Old - Two Cent Pieces + 1864 And 1867 + Nice Detail + No Reserve!!1864 2 Cent Coin2 Cent Pieces 1864 / 1865 .............2770)** 1864 & 1865 Two Cent Piece Scarce Old Coins** 1864 Two-cent Piece. Outstanding 1864 Two Cents1911-s Lincoln Cent Free Shipping1867 Two Cent Piece - Civil War Era American History - 2 Cent Piece1864 Two Cent Reserve!Lot Of 2 1864 & 1865 Two Cent Pieces 1864 2 Cent Raw1866 Two Cent Piece, 2c, Sharp Xf Details, True Auction1869 Shield Two Cent--good