The Problem of Large Cents

After fifty years of production, the United States Mint faced up to the mounting problems of the one cent denomination. They were increasingly unpopular with the public due to their size and weight. The coins were often considered filthy. Because the coins were not legal tender, they were often rejected by banks who would only accept silver and gold coinage. Sometimes the cents were accepted but only at a discounted rate. Finally, the rising cost of copper had made the large cent unprofitable for the mint to produce. It cost about $1.06 to produce 100 cents.

A number of different allows were considered as a way of correcting the problem. This included so called German silver, consisting of copper, nickel, zinc, tin, and antimony; billon, consisting of 10% silver and 90% copper; and various alloys of nickel, copper and zinc. The Mint Director eventually decided on an alloy of 88% copper and 12% nickel. This composition would be used for the newly introduced Flying Eagle Cent.

A relatively large number of 1856 dated pattern coins for the new composition, size, and format were produced to show to Congress and other influential individuals. The design and format proved acceptable and the coins were produced for circulation in the following year. The series was produced for just two years in 1857 and 1858. The Mint also restruck a relatively large number of 1856 Flying Eagle Cents for collectors. This issue, technically a pattern, became collected like a regular issue of the series.

The series continued to be struck for circulation for two more years, before a new design was adopted.

Posted on June 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm by admin · Permalink
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