The large Chain copper cent is about the size of a quarter, much larger than modern day pennies. It was the first circulating coin officially produced by the U.S. Mint. A total of 36,103 were struck in 1793, the only year the coin was produced. Only a tiny number of these magnificent Chain Cents have survived over the last 226 years.
Jumping Over Hurdles
U.S. Mint Director David Rittenhouse faced several challenges in the production of the Chain Cent.
Amid rising world copper prices and tight supplies in 1792, Mr. Rittenhouse arranged for imports of sheet copper from Great Britain. He also appealed to Congress and successfully won approval for a reduction in the weight of the cent, from 264 to 208 grains to help cut costs.
A second challenge? The U.S. Mint had no engraver. Rittenhouse persuaded Henry Voight, the chief coiner, to cut the first dies. Voight’s previous experience as a watchmaker left him ill-prepared for engraving.
Nonetheless, Voight went forward and engraved the Chain Cent dies in February 1793.
The Obverse design featured a Liberty head with flowing hair. The reverse featured an interlocking chain with 15 links to represent the existing 15 American states at the time.
An article in the Boston Argus of March 26, 1793 stated: “The chain on the reverse is but a bad omen for Liberty, and Liberty herself appears to be in a fright.”
Liberty’s appearance is likely a result of Voight’s inexperience in engraving. While the chain was intended represent unity and strength of America, critics said it was symbolic of slavery.
The uproar over the Chain cent design sent the government back to the drawing board. The following year, a wreath replaced the chain, and a better Liberty was engraved for the obverse.
Prices Shown Subject to Change
The pricing quoted on this page is based on the current market price for this precious metal, which constantly fluctuates and we continuously update from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.
You will be charged the price listed at the time you place your order and it is confirmed as paid. If your order was not confirmed as paid, it may need to be reviewed by our fraud team and your price will not be locked in until you speak with a Blanchard account representative.
To protect against the rare event of abnormally volatile market conditions, we reserve the right to deny pricing quoted on this website.
You will be charged the market price at the time you lock in your order with us.