World Paper Money and Coins: America’s First Mint
World paper money and coins come from national banks and mints from around the world. Some numismatists specifically seek out collectable coins and bills from countries around the world, including the United States. It was approximately 10 years after the U.S. gained its independence and five years after it ratified its Constitution that it established its first mint, and the first coins it produced looked very different from the ones the U.S. Mint produces today.
What Happened Before the Establishment of America’s First Mint?
During the colonial period, the colonies that eventually became the United States used foreign currency alongside British coins. The silver content in Spanish milled dollars stayed consistent through the years, which made them a favourite amongst colonists. Because of a lack of fractional coins, sometimes the only way to make change for a dollar was to literally cut the coin into halves, quarters, etc.
Upon gaining independence, the 13 former colonies were originally associated loosely under the Articles of Confederation, which gave each the right to mint its own coins and set its own values. As a result, the same coin was worth different amounts in different states, and confusion ensued.
The United States Constitution was written in 1787. It did not become legally binding until at least nine states had ratified it, which was accomplished in June of 1788. The Constitution granted the newly formed U.S. government the authority to mint its own money, but it was several more years until it was able to do so.
When and How Was America’s First Mint Established?
The first national mint in the United States was established by the passage of a federal law known as the Coinage Act of 1792. At that time, the capital of the United States was Philadelphia, so that was where the first mint was located. The U.S. Mint still has a location in Philadelphia where it produces coins but today it also operates additional production facilities in Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.
What Did the Early Coins Look Like?
The idea to base the currency’s values on a decimal system predates the Coinage Act, having first been proposed in 1784. Since the Spanish milled dollar was so widely used in the United States, the name “dollar” was chosen to represent the base unit of the new U.S. currency.
Under the Coinage Act, coins would be minted of three different metals: copper, silver, and gold. The gold eagle coin was the largest of the denominations and was worth ten dollars. Other gold coins included the half eagle, worth $5, and the quarter eagle, worth $2.50. All of these gold coins were eventually discontinued.
Dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollar coins were all made of silver. Because the five-cent coin was originally made of silver, it was referred to as the half-dime and did not become known as a nickel until later. Like the cent coin, the half-cent coin was made of copper until it was discontinued in 1857.
Initially, Congress debated putting presidential portraits on the coins but decided against it as it was too similar to the practice of featuring the current monarch on the British coins. Instead, early coins featured the Greco-Roman goddess of liberty on the obverse to represent independence. The earliest coins featured a chain with 13 links intended to represent the strength of the Union. However, some people interpreted it to represent slavery, so it was eventually replaced with a wreath on some coins and a heraldic eagle on others. Congress authorized portraits of past presidents on coins in 1909 with a rule that coins could only feature portraits of deceased individuals.
Find World Paper Money and Coins at Colonial Acres
World coins available at Colonial Acres include collectable American coins. Find old coins in denominations that still exist in the United States, including quarters, half-dollars, and dimes, as well as denominations that have been discontinued, including half cents and two-cent coins.