What is the origin and meaning of
the phrase "E Pluribus Unum"?
phrase appears on every U.S. coin and it's story begins with the
design of The United States National Seal.
Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in
1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of three -
Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams - to design
an official seal for the United States.
Jefferson wanted a depiction of "The Children of Israel in the
Wilderness"; Franklin suggested a representation of Moses parting
the Red Sea; and Adams wanted a picture of Hercules standing
between two allegorical figures representing Virtue and Sloth.
Seems they couldn't agree so they hired a Swiss-born artist named
Pierre Eugene du Simitiere to come up with a compromise design. Du
Simitiere combined the three themes then added his own flourishes
to the design. Of course, they hated it.
Frustrated, they hired a Philadelphia lawyer named William Barton
to come up with something better. Barton proposed his mishmash of
symbols, including an eagle and crest on one side of the seal and
an unfinished pyramid on the other. But that wasn't right either.
Finally, Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson stripped away
everything except the eagle and the pyramid and added his
symbols including a shield over the eagles chest, an olive branch
in one of the eagle's claws (symbolizing peace), and a bundle of
arrows (that symbolized war) in the other. That seal was finally
adopted and you can see it on the $1 bill.
the end, two elements of du Simitiere's original design did make
it into the final seal: the all-seeing eye of Providence, which
was placed atop the unfinished pyramid, and the motto E
Pluribus Unum: "From Many, One," which is printed on the
banner the eagle holds in it's mouth.
where did du Simitiere get the motto? Believe it or not,
historians speculate that he borrowed it from the masthead of 'Gentlemens
Magazine', a popular publication in the late 1700's. The editors
of the magazine, int turn, took it from color est e pluribus
unus, a line in Virgil's poem "Moretum" that "refers to
making a salad."
When did the words
"In God We Trust" appear on U. S. Coins?
Congress passed a law in 1955 mandating that all U.S. Coinage bear
the phrase but the actual words "In God We Trust" first appeared
on the two-cent piece back in 1864.
How did the motto
"In God We Trust" Originate?
all began on November 13, 1861.
With the nation embroiled in civil war, a small-town Pennsylvania
preacher named N.R. Watkinson sat down to write a letter. It was
addressed to Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury under
Rev. Watkinson was concerned that "recognition of the Almighty
God" had been overlooked on the nation's coinage. He believed
that proudly declaring such recognition "would relieve us from the
ignominy of heathenism" and "place us openly under the Divine
protection that we have personally claimed."
letter read as follows...
Ridleyville, Pa., Nov 13, 1861
You are about to submit your annual report to Congress
respecting the affairs of the national finances. One fact
touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked.
I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form in our
You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were now
shattered beyond reconstruction. Would not the antiquaries of
succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were
a heathen nation. What I propose is that instead of the
goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a
ring inscribed with the words "perpetual union"; within this
ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye
the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the
number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the
words "God, liberty, law."
This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen
could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of
heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine
protection that we have personally claimed. From my heart I
felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of
our present national disasters.
you first I address a subject that must be agitated.
(signed) N. R. Watkinson
Minister of the Gospel
NOTE: The "allseeing eye" Rev. Watkinson suggested is exactly the
same used on the Nova Constellatio silver coinage of 1783 (and
subsequently used on the Nova Constellatio copper coinage of
Exactly one week later, on November 20, 1861, Secretary Chase
wrote the following letter to Mint Director James Pollack.
Treasury Department, Nov. 20, 1861
nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe
except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should
be declared on our national coins.
You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary
delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words
possible this national recognition.
(signed) S. P. Chase
Chase declined to forward Rev. Watkinson's more specific
suggestions, but instead gave Pollack general instructions to
devise a new motto without making any particular recommendations.
a lengthy letter dated December 26, 1861, Director Pollack
responded to Chase, suggesting that the most appropriate place for
the new motto would be on the reverse of the coins, above the
first the motto "OUR TRUST IS IN GOD" was suggested, but it
contained too many letters to comfortably place on smaller coins.
"We therefore, selected for greater brevity the words 'GOD OUR
TRUST' which carries the same idea."
Pollack had his staff prepare four pattern dies containing the
proposed motto: reverses of the silver half dollar and ten dollar
"eagle" gold coins, with and without a scroll. The new dies were
paired with the regular obverse dies and struck in both copper and
the regulation metal (silver and gold, respectively). Thus a
total of eight different GOD OUR TRUST pattern coins dated 1861
With more pressing matters such as the financing of the war effort
occupying his time, Secretary Chase had not responded to Director
Pollack as of June 16, 1862.
that date Pollack wrote to Chase noting that it was now time to
prepare dies for the 1863 coins. Chase's delay apparently
accounts for the fact that no new dies were cut with the proposed
motto in 1862 - instead, a total of six patterns were struck
using the same four motto reverse dies and new 1862 obverse
dies. None were struck this year in gold.
1863 was a year of great experimentation at the U.S. Mint.
Patterns were produced for the proposed copper one cent, two cent,
and three cent pieces, plus the ten cent "postage currency"
pattern, as well as other coins. A total of twenty-nine pattern
coins bearing some form of the new motto were produced. In
addition to the initial "GOD OUR TRUST" motto, "GOD AND OUR
COUNTRY" was used on a Two Cent pattern, and the ultimately
adopted motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" appeared on two cent, quarter,
half dollar, and dollar patterns.
part of a long letter to Secretary Chase dated December 8, 1863,
Director Pollack recommended the coinage of the bronze one and
United States Mint
I also propose for your consideration the coinage of a
two-cent piece, same material and double weight of the
cent, and with such devices and motto as may be approved by
you. This piece would be a great public convenience, and its
coinage, in my opinion, should be authorized. The devices are
beautiful and appropriate, and the motto on each such, as all
who fear God and love their country, will approve. I prefer
the "shield and arrows" to the "head of Washington" on the
obverse of the coin. They are submitted for your
consideration. If you approve the change of material, and the
coinage of the two-cent piece, or wither, I will, if you
direct it, prepare a supplement to the existing laws, to be by
you submitted to Congress for their action.
Director of the Mint
Chase consented and Pollack drafted proposed legislation which was
later passed as part of the Mint Act of April 22, 1864. Chase
approved the pattern two-cent piece with the shield design and
motto "IN GOD WE TRUST".
the difference between Proof and Uncirculated Coins?
method of manufacturing. Proof coins are specially made for
collectors, distinguished by sharpness of detail (stamped twice),
usually a mirror like surface and frosted design elements.
Uncirculated coins are those coins produced for general use but
not yet put into circulation. They show no signs of wear, however,
they may show "bagmarks" or contact marks and may lack some
How are U.S. Coins Graded?
The condition or
state of wear of a coin, termed its "grade," is one of the main
determining factors of a coin's value. Learning how to grade coins
is essential for making sensible decisions whether buying,
selling, or investing.
-The History of Coin
In the early days of coin collecting,
grading of coins was by "instinct." Dealers had different grading
systems based on their individual experiences, observations, and
opinions. There was very little standardization.
Discussions on coin grading systems were
held by the American Numismatic Association (A.N.A.) for decades,
but it was not until the 1970's that definite steps were taken to
compile a book of universal grading standards. In 1978 the
Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins was
first published, representing a consensus of professional
numismatists' grading systems.
In recent times, coin values have
increased sharply. In many instances coins that were sold at
$100.00 twenty years ago command prices of $2,000.00 or more now.
A very small difference in a coin's grade can mean a very large
difference in its price. The exact grade of a coin is more
important now than ever before.
It is recommended that anyone considering an investment in rare
coins should become familiar with the Official A.N.A. Grading
System for United States Coins, outlined below. Descriptions
are presented first, followed by a listing of
Also included is a series of pictures illustrating a typical coin
in the respective states of wear. The information provided herein
is intended only as an introduction. A complete grading guide to
each individual series of United States coins is detailed in the
Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins
Grades (Mint State)
- The perfect coin. Has very attractive sharp strike and original
luster of the highest quality for the date and mint. No contact
marks are visible under magnification. There are absolutely no
hairlines, scuff marks or defects. Attractive and outstanding eye
appeal. Copper coins must be bright with full original color and
- Must have very attractive sharp strike and full original luster
for the date and mint, with no more than two small non-detracting
contact marks or flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks can be seen.
Has exceptional eye appeal. Copper coins must be bright with full
original color and luster.
- Attractive sharp strike and full original luster for the date
and mint, with no more than four light scattered contact marks or
flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks show. Exceptional eye appeal.
Copper coins must have lustrous original color.
- Has full original luster and sharp strike for date and mint. May
have three or four very small contact marks and one more
noticeable but not detracting mark. On comparable coins, one or
two small single hairlines may show under magnification, or one or
two partially hidden scuff marks or flaws may be present. Eye
appeal is exceptional. Copper coins must have lustrous original
- Must have above average quality of strike and full original mint
luster, with no more than two or three minor but noticeable
contact marks. A few very light hairlines may show under
magnification, or there may be one or two light scuff marks
showing on frosted surfaces or in the field. The eye appeal must
be above average and very pleasing for the date and mint. Copper
coins display full original or lightly toned color as appropriate.
- Shows an attractive high quality of luster and strike for the
date and mint. A few small scattered contact marks, or two larger
marks may be present, and one or two small patches of hairlines
may show under magnification. Noticeable light scuff marks may
show on the high points of the design. Overall quality is above
average and overall eye appeal is very pleasing. Copper coins have
full luster with original or darkened color as appropriate.
- Has at least average luster and strike for the type. Several
small contact marks in groups, as well as one or two moderately
heavy marks may be present. One or two mall patches of hairlines
may show under low magnification. Noticeable light scuff marks or
defects might be seen within the design or in the field.
Attractive overall quality with a pleasing eye appeal. Copper
coins may be slightly dull. Color should be appropriate.
- Mint luster may be slightly impaired. Numerous small contact
marks, and a few scattered heavy marks may be seen. Small
hairlines are visible without magnification. Several detracting
scuff marks or defects may be present throughout the design or in
the fields. The general quality is about average, but overall the
coin is rather attractive. Copper pieces may be darkened or dull.
Color should be appropriate.
- An impaired or dull luster may be evident. Clusters of small
marks may be present throughout with a few large marks or nicks in
prime focal areas. Hairlines may be very noticeable. Large
unattractive scuff-marks might be seen on major features. The
strike, rim and planchet quality may be noticeably below average.
Overall eye-appeal is generally acceptable. Copper coins will show
a diminished color and tone.
- Mint luster may be diminished or noticeably impaired, and the
surface has clusters of small contact marks throughout. Hairlines
could be very noticeable. Scuff-marks may show as unattractive
patches on large areas or major features. Small rim nicks,
striking or planchet defects may show, and the quality may be
noticeably poor. Eye appeal is somewhat unattractive. Copper
pieces will be generally dull, dark and possibly spotted.
- Unattractive, dull or washed out mint luster may mark this coin.
There may be many large detracting contact marks, or damage spots,
but absolutely no trace of wear. There could be a heavy
concentration of hairlines, or unattractive large areas of
scuff-marks. Rim nicks may be present, and eye appeal is very
poor. Copper coins may be dark, dull and spotted.
Choice About Uncirculated)
- The barest trace of wear may be seen on one or more of the high
points of the design. No major detracting contact marks will be
present and the coin will have attractive eye appeal and nearly
full luster, often with the appearance of a higher grade.
- Only small traces of wear are visible on the highest points of
- With traces of wear on nearly all of the highest areas. At least
half of the original mint luster is present.
- With light overall wear on the coin's highest points. All design
details are very sharp. Mint luster is usually seen only in
protected areas of the coin's surface.
- With only slight wear but more extensive than the preceding,
still with excellent overall sharpness. Traces of mint luster may
- With light even wear on the surface; design details on the
highest points lightly worn, but with all lettering and major
- As with
but with moderate wear on the higher surface features.
- Moderate to considerable even wear. Entire design is bold. All
lettering, including the word "LIBERTY" (on coins with this
feature on shield or headband), visible, but with some weakness.
- Well worn. Major designs visible, but with faintness in areas.
Head of Liberty, wreath, and other major features visible in
outline form without center detail.
- Heavily worn. Major designs visible, but with faintness in
areas. Head of Liberty, wreath, and other major features, as
applicable, visible in outline form without center detail.
- Very heavily worn with portions of the lettering, date, and
legends being worn smooth. The date is barely readable.
descriptions of circulated grades vary from one coin series to
another, so the preceding commentary is of a general nature. It is
essential to refer to the proper section of the Official A.N.A.
Grading Standards for United States Coins text when grading
recognized by the Official A.N.A. Grading System for United
States Coins, intermediate grades such as
AU-53, VF-35, VF-25, F-15
are employed by some grading services and dealers. Also, some
dealers use the abbreviation
to designate coins in
condition. Additionally, three other nonstandard grades are
sometimes applied to coins that grade below
- Extremely worn. Most of the coin's surface may be smooth. The
date may not be readable. Possibly exhibits slight to moderate
- Hardly recognizable. May be damaged considerably.
- Unrecognizable and/or severely damaged and unable to be
or "+" might also be included by a grader who believes that a coin
is better than the minimum grade requirements, but does not
satisfy the criteria for the next higher grade (for example,
A grade range may also be given (for example,
In addition, the designation
is frequently used to describe uncirculated coins. Because of the
absence of a numerical grade, this term is ambiguous at best.
Often, coins that are offered as
may in reality be
by strict definition.
may be assigned when there are significant differences in the
obverse grade and reverse grade of the same coin. Split grades are
normally denoted with a dual grade in obverse/reverse format. For
example, a coin with a split grade of
would have an obverse grading
and a reverse grading
Typically, coins with a split grade are valued at the level of
their lowest grade, whether obverse or reverse.
In addition to
numerical grade, the market value of a coin is determined by
several other factors. Some of these are: quality of strike,
brilliance or toning, centering, planchet quality, aesthetic
appeal, and supply vs. demand. Collectors and investors are also
encouraged to seek one or more second opinions from a professional
before purchasing a coin with a high market price.
QUARTERS, WHAT IS A DATE SET?
date set folder or album holds only one coin (either Philadelphia
or Denver) for each State.
Statehood quarters are minted for circulation at Philadelphia and
Denver. San Francisco Mints Statehood quarters as proofs only.
WAS THE FIRST COIN MINTED IN THE UNITED STATES?
Silver Dollar was minted in Philadelphia on October 15th, 1794.
Total Mintage was 1,758 with no proofs. It was designed by Robert
Scot and had a metal content of 90% Silver and 10% Copper. The
edge of the coin is lettered "HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT"
with various ornaments between the words. There is no mintmark as
all dates of this type were struck at Philadelphia.
WHAT YEAR WAS THE DOLLAR ESTABLISHED AS THE OFFICIAL CURRENCY
OF THE UNITED STATES?
Why do some U.S. coins have ridges around the edge?
Perhaps you noticed that United States
dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and silver
dollars have ridges, or grooves, around
their edges. They were not put there for
decoration, but had a very important purpose
at one time in history.
During our country's earlier years, all
coins were made of gold or silver, and did
not have ridges. Each coin's value was based
on the amount of gold or silver in it. For
example, a $10 gold piece contained ten
dollars worth of gold, and silver dimes
contained ten cents worth of silver.
But some dishonest people sought to make an
illegal profit from these coins. They filed
off the edges and sold them for their value
in gold or silver. The smaller-sized coin
often went unnoticed, but this dishonest
practice decreased the value of the original
gold or silver coin.
To prevent this, the government began
milling, or grooving, the edges so a coin
could easily be identified if it was
Coins today are no longer made of pure gold
or silver, but the milled edges remain
because people are accustomed to seeing them