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Coin Of the Month

Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin

1776 Continental Coin

I'm Flip and I love a good mystery.  That's why I love July's coin, made in 1776.  Does that year sound familiar to you?  It should.  The Declaration of Independence was signed that year—on the fourth of July, to be exact!

This coin is a mystery because it has no amount on it, no denomination.  Most people call it a Continental dollar, but it doesn't say so.  And we can't call it a silver dollar because it wasn't always made of silver—some were made of brass, and some of pewter.

We can only guess about these coins because, in 1776, the United States was just being born.  There was no national Mint yet to make our coins.  And Congress has no records of these coins even being made.

The silver ones were probably worth a dollar, especially since they're about the same size as a Spanish milled dollar, which was also made of silver.  The brass kind were probably worth a penny.  Pewter was probably used because silver and brass were both hard to get.

More mysteries: Who designed them?  And where were they made?

Well, the designs are just like the ones on the paper bills of that time, and we know that Benjamin Franklin designed those.  And coin researchers now believe that the silver coins were struck in New York City to replace paper dollars, which weren't printed that year.  But the records and the coins don't tell the story, so we may never know for sure.  Even Inspector Collector would be stumped on this case!

If this coin looks familiar, maybe it's because it looks a lot like Peter's favorite coin, the Fugio Cent.  That was the first official U.S. coin, definitely designed by Ben Franklin, in 1787.  But you'll notice differences.  For example, on the front of the cent, the sun is at the top.  On the back, "We Are One" is surrounded by "United States" instead of "American Congress."

Flip, the Mint Seal

Teacher Feature

OBVERSE: 1776 Continental Coin
Obverse:  Benjamin Franklin's sundial design uses the legends "Fugio"-that's Latin for "I fly" (meaning "time flies")-and "Mind Your Business" (meaning "take care of your duties").

REVERSE: 1776 Continental Coin
Reverse:  The chain around the edge has 13 links, each with a state's name on it, showing the unity of the states.

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