How the Civil War impacted US Coins 8


Abraham Lincoln was elected President in November, 1860. By the time of his inaugural address on March 4, 1861, a number of Southern states had seceded from the Union to become the Confederate States of America. President Lincoln told people that day that he would do anything to get those states back. With the Confederacy wanting no more to do with the Union, they would bomb the Union fort at Fort Sumter, SC on April 12, 1861, starting the War Between the States.

In the next four years, US coins would go through some changes.

Loss of US Mints1859 Indian Cent

When the Confederacy was formed, three US mints were no longer used for US Coins: Charlotte, NC, Dahlonega, GA and New Orleans. This would only leave Philadelphia and San Francisco run by the Union. This hurt the Union as Charlotte and Dahlonega produced gold coins and New Orleans produced both silver and gold coins. With no intercontinental railroad yet, it would be tough to get silver and gold from San Francisco.

Indian Cent1906 Indian Cent

When the Indian Cent began being produced in 1859, it was composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel. With nickel being need for the war effort, the cent was made thinner and would contain 95% copper beginning in 1864 and would be for all cents up to 1982.

Two Cent

At the same time the Indian Cent was made thinner, a Two Cent Piece was introduced bigger than the cent, but also1865 Two Cent made of 95% copper. The Two Cent introduced a new motto that would appear on most future coins, In God We Trust. After the Civil War, the two cent would become less popular and in less than 10 years, it would disappear.

Three Cent Nickel

With silver and gold being scarce during the Civil War, people would hoard coins, hurting the economy even more. Congress tried to overcome this by producing paper money. The smallest of these notes was 3 cents because all denominations above two cents were either silver or gold coins. In an effort to stop making 3 cent notes, Congress issued a new Three Cent Nickel in 1865. It was approved one month before the end of the Civil War. As a result, the US mint produce a lot less Three Cent 1868 Three Cent NickelSilver pieces and would stop making them in 1873. When the Shield Nickel was released in 1866, 3 cent coins were being used less and less and after 1881, mintages of the Three Cent Nickel would only be in the thousands and tens of thousands. The last year of the Three Cent Nickel would be 1889.

After the Civil War

The country went through a tough period with the assassination of President Lincoln and the South’s Reconstruction Period. Charlotte and Dahlonega mints would never reopen and New Orleans wouldn’t be able to reopen until 1879.

With nickel no longer needed for the war, a 5 cent nickel was introduced in 1866. As stated previously, the two and three cent pieces would eventually go away, but served their purposes when the country needed them most.


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8 thoughts on “How the Civil War impacted US Coins

  • Chris

    Interesting. Its the best way to define this post. I am a avid coin collector. Reading this article makes me want to add these coins to my collection as I have never heard or seen these coins. This article has also given me a glimpse to our nation’s past and how the roll of money played in the Civil War beyond what’s just taught in the history books at School.

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks Chris! I believe coins play an important part in American history. The pictures in the post are from my type set and I thought it would be interesting to find out how they impacted history. You’ll definitely not find this at any school.

  • Teresa

    I find your post very interesting with lots of facts on the mints and coins that were made or altered due to the Civil War. I thought it was interesting that there was a 3 cent nickel and a 3 cent paper money. I never knew that. I have learned something new about American coins today. I enjoyed reading your post

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks Theresa! I didn’t realize there was a 3 cent note till I did some research recently, but I did know about the origin of the 3 cent nickel. War seems to bring out a lot of hoarding as the government has a demand for some metals.

  • Nicole

    I’m just starting to get into coin collecting, so this post was very interesting for starting to understand some of the history behind these coins. You mention that three of the mints stopped being used during this time, and that they focused primarily on silver and gold coins. Does this mean that there were no silver and gold coins made at this time?

    • Kevin Post author

      There were still silver and gold coins being minted in Philadelphia and San Francisco during the Civil War but it was difficult to get the gold coins from San Francisco to the Eastern US. The intercontinental railroad wouldn’t be completed till after the war. This left a shortage in precious metal coins for the union with the 3 southern mints out of commission. You can imagine all the hoarding occuring at this time.

  • Gerleene G.

    Very interesting content! Personally i am not a history buff but I love this post! I feel like this is important in interesting information to easily read up on. The organization and clean look of this page shows your credibility and efforts you put into your work. Great post, keep them coming!

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks Gerleene! I’m glad you loved the post. Coins have always had an important role in history. This is just one example.