The Scarcity of Small Denomination Coins
In the late 18th century, the American colonies faced a shortage of small-denomination coins, and various states, including Massachusetts, took action to address the issue.
The States’ Response: Massachusetts Leads the Way
On October 17, 1786, before the Federal era, while the U.S. Constitution underwent ratification and before establishing a federal mint, the Massachusetts General Court passed an act establishing a state-run mint to produce coins for circulation.
The Designs and Symbolism: Massachusetts Copper Coins
The design of these coins was rich in symbolism. The Massachusetts copper coins featured an Indian figure with a bow and arrow, a star, and the word “Commonwealth” on one side. The reverse depicted a spread eagle, the state’s name, Cent and Half Cent denominations, and the date below the eagle.
These artistic designs represented the state’s identity and unity during a politically transformative time. The use of the word “Commonwealth” and the figure of the Indian demonstrated a sense of regional pride.
The Massachusetts Cents – Early American Numismatic History
The Massachusetts 1787 and 1788 cents and half cents are among the most compelling stories in American numismatics. As the first coins to bear the denomination of cent and half-cent, they stand as a testament to the nation’s early struggle for economic sovereignty. They are a reminder of the American spirit of resilience and innovation, and their fascinating narrative is sure to captivate the imagination of anyone interested in early American history.