157 years ago today, on April 22nd, 1864, the US Coinage act made three small changes to US coinage.
First, they decided to mint pennies on bronze planchets. Previous pennies were minted on copper-nickle planchets, and before that, the pennies were copper. Today, US pennies are minted on copper-plated zinc planchets.
Secondly, the act mandated production of the 2 cent coin, and thirdly, that the 2 cent coin would include the legend, “In God We Trust” rather than the US motto E Pluribus Unum. E Pluribus Unum was adopted during the US Revolution because it has thirteen letters to represent the 13 colonies, it means “out of many, one,” and it represents the founding of a new nation free from Monarchical rule. E Pluribus Unum was the US motto for many years, until 1956 when it was replaced with “In God We Trust.”
Today, “In God We Trust” is engraved on every US coin, and printed on every greenback, but that was not always the case. It wasn’t until 1957 after the official US motto was changed to “In God We Trust” that it was printed on US paper money.
These motto changes started in 1864, but the transition has faced opposition. Initially, the Indian Head $10 Gold Coin did not have the phrase and for a few years, the Jefferson Nickle was minted without the motto.
The shift to include “In God We Trust” was not met with approval from all sides. Former President Teddy Roosevelt found the idea dangerous as it brought together church and state. Despite his reservations, in 1907 it was mandated that all coins would include the phrase. Even though E Pluribus Unum is no longer an official motto, the mint still produces many coins, every year, with the slogan. It seems that these two phrases can live in harmony at this time.
If we have learned anything by collecting coins it is that the rules are not set in stone. Numismatists understand that design is fluid and changeable. We are excited to see what the future holds!
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