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The Fugio Cents Of The United States

By Edited Jun 17, 2016 1 2

Fugio Cent Obverse

The Fugio Cent is a relic from the 18th century colonial days of the United States.

Authorization for the coinage was approved by congress on April 21, 1787. The coins however were not minted until July of 1787 when the design could be finalized.

Mr. James Jarvis was contracted to produce 3 hundred tons of copper coins, with one side to depict 13 circles, all linked. Then a smaller circle in the center containing the words, United States, wrapping around the words, We Are One.

On the other side of the proposed coins there was a sun dial with a meridian sun and the word Fugio, meaning time flies. This side also contained the date, as well as the words mind your business.

Fugio Cen Reverse

The dies for this endeavor were produced by Abel Buell. He resided in New Haven, Connecticut and the coins were struck in this town. There is a possibility that Fugio Cents were also coined elsewhere, but documentation is sketchy at best.

Benjamin Franklin is said to have contributed the designs for this coin. This fact has caused the collector base for this cent to nickname the coin the Franklin Cent.

It is written in mint history that copper for this mintage came from barrel straps, that were wrapped around the powder kegs, the United States had received from France. These were melted down and coin planchets, or slugs, were produced.

There are several variations to the lettering, as different hand cut dies were employed at the time and each die was unique. United States was reversed on one variety to States United.

One die has been collected extensively and is popular with error collectors. This coin shows a horizontal 1 in the date, with a vertical 1 cut over it. Collectors flock to this type of die error and it does carry a very nice premium, if you happen to have the right one.

Rays surrounding the sun in the sun dial also have some differences between dies. This has created several more varieties. Some have rounded ends and some have clubbed ends. There was also a thin elongated ray variety and a club shaped fatter one.

All of these different dies are collected by number today and all are rare. Collectors have now found some issues impossible to collect. For a coin with only one year of production, this issue surely has a disproportionately large collector base.

One of the reasons for this is the fact that this was the first official coinage of the United States of America. A country had been born and they needed coins for commerce.

A re strike of this coin, was supposedly done in New Haven, Connecticut, near where the originals were struck. 3 dies were found by a young 14 year old boy. His name was C. Wyllys Betts and was apparently playing in the old building when he located the dies.

Three sets of dies were found; however it is strongly believed that the re-strikes that exist are from 1860, when copy dies were produced. The re-strikes are as highly priced as some original varieties and may have a higher rarity.

Colonial coins, minted by the thirteen individual states, had been circulating throughout the USA and they joined foreign coins and that was it. There was a desperate need at the time for a national circulating coinage for the country.

The barter system was used more often then money. The arrival of an official United States coin was a welcome sight, for the people doing the business of the day.

Good reading on the Fugio series of strikes would be Alan Kessler's "The Fugio Cents" Published in 1976 and "Studies On Money In Early America" American Numismatic Society also 1976, although these two editions can be hard, or expensive, to buy.

The 1776 Continental Currency Coinage: Varieties Of The Fugio Cent
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Nov 22, 2010 10:40am
That is a gorgeous coin. I had never heard of this coin until your article.
Nov 25, 2010 11:48pm
It is Ernie, They should bring back a nice large copper cent of some sort, problem is it would be worth a quarter just in copper.
Thanks for stopping by.
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