NEW YORK, NY -- It was in March of 1793 that the United States stuck the first copper coin at the fledgling Philadelphia Mint. Known as the Chain Cent, it depicts on the obverse a rather dramatic design of Liberty with flowing hair and the date of 1793. The reverse bears the value of One Cent encircled by a wreath of chains, with the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA or AMER.
It was not well received, so much so that less than a week after its introduction an article was published in The Mail, or Claypoole’s Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia, March 18), which was copied up and down the East Coast:
"The American Cents...do not answer our expectations. The chain on the reverse is but a bad omen for liberty, and Liberty herself appears to be in a fright. May she not justly cry out in the words of the Apostle, “Alexander the coppersmith hath done me much evil: the Lord reward him accordingly to his works.” (ref. Walter Breens Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins)
This barb drawing a connection between the chain and slavery ("bad omen for liberty") was aimed at Alexander Hamilton, the Caribbean-born, illegitimate, reputedly mixed-race statesman who was Secretary of the Treasury at the time. Almost immediately the Mint Director Rittenhouse ordered a new design. In April of 1793 the change was made to the wreath design, which was continued through to the 1860s.
The original production of 36,103 coins was mostly destroyed to the lack of popularity. It is estimated that fewer than 2,000 copies have survived in today’s market. Thus when a coin of such historical importance and limited availability comes to the market it creates much interest.
Coins, Bank Notes, Postage Stamps & Medals
Auction Tuesday, October 22, 2018 at 2pm
Exhibition October 19-21
United States 1793 Chain Cent S-2 Rarity 4+
1793 Chain Wide Date AMERICA Cent, a typical Circulated Coin with environmental damage as to be expected with a Grade close to Fine, details of the date and lettering clear, the reverse is slightly stronger with the chain and lettering complete, a presentable example of this much sort after First Copper Cent. Graded and encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation 1793 Chain 'AMERICA' 1C S-2 Fine Details
NGC Fine Details