Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1864 Small Motto Two Cent Piece, PR64 Red
    Among the Finest Known Full Red Examples of This Rarity

    1864 2C Small Motto PR64 Red NGC. The motto "In God We Trust," although introduced in 1864 and seen oftener today on coins and currency than anywhere else, became the national motto by an act of Congress in 1956. Only then did it replace "E Pluribus Unum," Latin for "Out of Many, One," the former secular national motto. In 1957 "In God We Trust" was officially made permanent on American currency. Indian cents lacked it, but it was added to Lincoln cents at their 1909 debut. The Shield nickel, introduced in 1867, carried the motto but it was dropped from the Liberty and Buffalo nickels, only to reappear on Jefferson nickels. The Mercury dime bore the motto at its 1916 premier, and it has appeared on all gold coins, dollars, half dollars, and quarters struck since 1908. As President Theodore Roosevelt learned in 1907, one removes IN GOD WE TRUST from coinage at his own peril: Congress overrode his deep-seated objections to its appearance on coinage in 1908. More recently, the House has voted to strip funding for the Mint if those funds are to be used for edge-lettering the Presidential dollars, clearly an attempt to restore the edge inscriptions--especially IN GOD WE TRUST--to the coins' faces.

    An upsurge in religious sentiment during the Civil War provided the impetus to put IN GOD WE TRUST on coinage. The Rev. M.R. Watkinson, of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, was one of many who wrote to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase in 1861, suggesting that "God, Liberty, Law" be added. Chase charged Mint Director James Pollock to develop suitable wording, and the numerous versions included "Our Trust is in God," "Our God and Our Country," "God and Our Country," and "God Our Trust." The two cent piece was launched with IN GOD WE TRUST in 1864.

    Walter Breen's Proof Encyclopedia writes of the Small Motto variant, "Mintage unknown. Thought to have formed an extremely small percentage of the 100 proofs issued in July 1864, but more likely to have been made in infinitesimal quantity (of the order of magnitude of a dozen or fifteen pieces?) late in April, outside the normal issue of proof sets ... Only the one obverse die used for proofs and nonproofs; very little distinction between vertical and horizontal and curved parts of letters in thickness. This working die was originally used on patterns, bearing the 1863 reverse with CENTS markedly curved ... . Date is low and distant from ball; there are also differences in the die work on leaves of wreath above shield, the berry below final T in TRUST on large motto coins being absent, second leaf of group under TRUST (that in highest relief) having a long stem absent on the large motto hub, etc. Reverse of regular type with ER showing recutting on proofs -- this die not used on circulated pieces ... ." Breen goes on to enumerate three specimens and concludes that he has seen "at least" three others, ending with "the estimate of about ten known is unlikely to be bettered."

    Strangely, while the doubling at ER Breen mentions is unseen on this coin, he fails to mention the obvious die doubling that all proof Small Mottos show, fittingly, on the motto, as well as prominently on the left arrowhead bottom, the bottom horizontal shield stripe, the bottom of the fletchings, and numerous other areas. This piece shows delightful pinkish-red surfaces on both sides that are clearly within a full Red designation, although a few light flecks are seen that prevent a Gem grade. This historic proof coin, one that signaled a permanent sea change in American life and society that continues to reverberate in American numismatics to this day, is no doubt destined for one of the finest American cabinets. Census: 1 in 64 Red, 0 finer (11/13).
    Ex: Richmond II Collection (David Lawrence,11/2004), lot 1107, where it sold for $39,675. ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2007), lot 1584, where it brought $48,875.
    From The Greensboro Collection, Part V.(Registry values: P6) (NGC ID# 274S, PCGS# 3626)

    Weight: 6.22 grams

    Metal: 95% Copper, 5% Tin & zinc

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Greensboro Collection, Part V ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2014
    8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,696

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 11 days left to consign to the 2020 January 8 - 13 FUN US Coins Signature Auction - Orlando !

    Learn about consigning with us

    I'm very pleased with how you run the auctions and am certain to consign coins at future events.
    Jeff H.,
    Talking Rock, GA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 October 17-24 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 October 17-24 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $7,412,570
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Long Beach
    REALIZED $5,898,481
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World Paper Money Signature Auction - Long Beach
    2019 September 5 - 9 Long Beach Expo World Paper Money Signature Auction - Long Beach
    REALIZED $1,866,390