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This Is the First U.S. Coin, Says Numismatic Scholar

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This Is the First U.S. Coin, Says Numismatic Scholar

One prominent numismatist and researcher is convinced he has successfully traced back and identified which rare post-colonial coin was the first ever struck under the official auspices of the U.S. government.

First U.S. Pattern Coin


Although plenty of small-denomination colonial and imitation British coinage popped up in a few places around America during the Revolution, many people are surprised to learn that the United States Mint did not produce the first federally issued coins until 1792, the year the mint was founded.

During the time before the U.S. Constitution was ratified, there were a few select U.S. pattern coins struck as test pieces, essentially. One production run occurred in 1787, but the earliest recorded patterns were made in 1783.

Among this first group of true U.S. pattern coins, there are a few different "denominations" of which each one a unique specimen. In other words, only one exists of each! For one denomination known as the quint, a 500 "unit" silver coin, there were two varieties struck. Just one is known of each type: the "With Motto" and "No Motto" types. The former bears the motto "NOVA CONSTELLATIO," Latin for New Constellation.

Although the "units" system imagined by some of the country's Founding Fathers had its limitations, such as using large numbers to represent relatively small amounts of money, it also laid the groundwork for the mint and coinage system later adopted by the United States. As was the case for basically the next century, the values and silver weights of this coinage proposal was based on the Spanish "dollar," the 8 reales silver coin. These patterns, likewise struck from silver, were also revolutionary in imagining a system of coinage in terms of a decimal system, as well.


first U.S. coin Silver Quint Pattern Coin. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions via CoinWeek

Numismatic researcher David McCarthy, a frequent contributor to Whitman's annual Red Book, is putting forward the theory that the silver quint was the first coin to be struck across the numismatic news media. He spoke to Greg Reynolds of CoinWeek about the idea, covering an immense span of research to uncover the background about the historic trial coins.

McCarthy is also a senior numismatist for Kagin's, a California-based firm in possession of one of the ultra-rare quint silver pattern coins through a consignor of the rarity. The same firm also organized and helped auction the famous Saddle Ridge Hoard of $20 Gold Liberty coins in 2014.

This story about McCarthy's work on the quint was also picked up this week by the likes of Fox News, CNBC, NPR, and other national media outlets.


The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.

About the Author

Everett Millman

Everett Millman

Analyst, Commodities and Finance
Managing Editor

Everett has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.

In addition to blogging, Everett's work has been featured in CoinWeek, Advisor Perspectives, Wealth Management, Activist Post, and has been referenced by the Washington Post.

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