Understanding America’s First Minted Coin: The Chain Cent

With few exceptions, collectors of any kind desire to have the first or earliest version of their prize. Rare book collectors desire first editions, philatelists pay top dollar for first-day covers, and a star player’s rookie card is almost always more valuable than their later issues. Rare coins are no different; coins that are the “first” of something carry a historical weight that makes them highly sought after by collectors and rare coin dealers. The Chain Cent is the very first regular issue coin produced by the United States Government and is a valuable and prized coin for collectors.

Origins of the Chain Cent

A picture of the Chain Cent

On April 2, 1792, the Coinage Act was passed establishing the U.S. Mint and charging it with producing coins of uniform weight and substance for circulation among the newly-united colonies. The first coin produced by the Mint was the Birch Cent, but these were never released to the public. In 1793, the Mint issued 36,103 Chain Cents to the public. The coins feature a liberty head design on one side, and the obverse shows the words “one cent” ringed by a chain of 15 links, meant to symbolize the strength and unity of the colonies.

The Chain Cent Today

At the time the Chain Cents were issued, the coins were widely derided by people who thought Lady Liberty looked frightened, while others saw the chain design as a symbol of slavery. The two disliked sides of this coin can be viewed in the image above provided by the National Numismatic Collection from the National Museum of American History. The unpopular design was quickly changed, and people were unmotivated to save the much-loathed coins. As a result, less than 2% of the coins issued by the Mint are in existence today. Chain Cents, even in poor condition can sell for up to $3,000. In uncirculated condition, they can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Chain Cent is a true piece of American history and a worthy addition to any coin collection. To buy or sell rare coins in the Atlanta metro area, visit Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers. Those not in the metro Atlanta area or even out of state can do business with us through our trusted mail service. In addition to rare coins, Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers also has a large inventory of gold, silver, and platinum coins and bullion. Call Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers today at (404) 236-9744 or schedule an appointment online.

Tony Davis
Tony Davis