For all practical purposes, the 1872 two-cent piece was the last of the line. There would be an 1873, but you would have to pay extra to get one as it came as a proof only. The 1872 was the last business strike and with its low mintage you might well question whether officials were serious about the 1872 as well. Of course, that gives it a place in history as the last business strike of a certain coin and also a special place as a tougher date.
The situation by 1872 was fairly simple. The two-cent piece, which was first produced in 1864, was no longer needed. The denomination had played a role in the confused and difficult days of the Civil War, but it was no longer needed.
Back in 1864 when the bronze two-cent piece made its debut, it was during a wartime crisis. Regular commercial activity in the United States probably looked a little like a Third World street fair because that was pretty much what it was. The public was concerned with the outcome of the Civil War and had hoarded all coins.
The assortment of items used to make change included stamps, encased stamps, Fractional Currency, which was paper money down to a denomination as low as three cents, and privately issued one-cent tokens. Ordinary business could not be conducted that way indefinitely.
In 1864 the cent was changed to bronze to match the size and composition of the private tokens. The two-cent piece was introduced.
Naturally, the public was at first wild for anything that would help them with their purchases. In 1864 the two-cent piece mintage was almost 20 million. In 1865, it was 13.64 million.
Peace returned in 1865, but wartime conditions led to the copper-nickel three-cent piece in 1865 and the copper-nickel five-cent piece in 1866. As a consequence, the mintage of the two-cent piece fell to just over 10 million in 1866 and then it kept dropping.
The two-cent piece was a creature of the crisis and with the crisis conditions passing, the people decided they didn’t like the denomination. On the other hand, they loved the nickel.
By the early 1870s, gold and silver were still not circulating normally. The bulk of silver coins were seen in the West. Gold coins still commanded a premium in paper money.
The last year that saw the two-cent piece mintage of at least one million was 1869. By 1872, the total was 65,000. The hand writing was on the wall. With such a low mintage, the G-4 price is $400. In MS-60 it is $3,150 and in MS-65 it is $5,500. A Proof-65 is cheaper at $850.
At the Professional Coin Grading Service they have seen a dozen in MS-65 and three more in MS-66. Numbers are far higher for Proof-65 at 137 at that grade or better while Numismatic Guaranty Corporation adds 95 in Proof-65 or higher grades.
The presence of so many proofs out of a mintage of less than 1,000 is due to collector preference for proofs when the coins were issued. They hardly saved uncirculated pieces. But proof or uncirculated, surviving 1872 numbers are low, which will keep the prices rising.
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