Continental Currency coin sold for $1,410,000

When it was minted in 1776, the Continental Currency coin didn’t have a denomination. There were silver, brass and pewter versions and numismatists still aren’t sure how they were used because there is no value notation on the coins themselves and no historical records authorizing the coins have survived. There are about 60 of these coins extant, most of them pewter. Only four of the silver Continental Currency coins are known and one of them has just sold at auction for $1,410,000. An impressive result for a coin whose original value is unknown.

On February 10th, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized the creation of the first national currency, paper notes in denominations from 1/6th of a dollar to 80 dollars. The name came from the Spanish dollars, whose reliable silver weight and purity had made them a global currency since they were first minted in 1497, used to back the notes. The design of the Continentals, as the notes became known, was the work of Benjamin Franklin, a long-time advocate for paper money who as early as 1736 had printed paper currency for New Jersey. The obverse of the Continental fractional dollars has the Latin “FUGIO” (I fly) written over a sundial and the charmingly Old Richard-esque legend “MIND YOUR BUSINESS” written underneath it. (It’s not really sure what he meant by that legend, but it probably wasn’t “mind your own business” in the way we think of it today. It’s more likely to have been a literal meaning of business as in see to your money-making. It could have been a rebus with the sundial and FUGIO legend, meaning something like time flies so take care of your business.) The reverse has 13 linked rings, each labeled with the name of one of the colonies, surrounding a sun containing the legends “AMERICAN CONGRESS” and “WE ARE ONE.”

The borders and devices for the Continentals were the work of engraver and artist Elisha Gallaudet who had engraved New York State notes in 1771 and New York City notes, the first currency issued by an American city, in 1774. Elisha Gallaudet also engraved the dies of the Continental Currency coin that just sold. He left his mark — EG FECIT (EG made it) — on the silver coin making it one of very few coins from the colonial period to bear its maker’s signature. Experts believe that the Continental Congress intended the coins to replace the one dollar paper note.

The four resolutions from May 10, 1775 to May 9, 1776 provided for the issue of paper money in various denominations, including the one dollar bill. The six resolutions of July 22, 1776 through September 26, 1778 omitted the one dollar denomination. Thus, it is logical to conclude the pewter pieces were intended as a substitute for the paper dollars in those issues. The coins had minimal intrinsic value, and like the paper bills they replaced, were valued according to the public’s confidence in Congress, who guaranteed their value at one dollar each.

The mintage figures are unknown, but the pewter coins appear with enough frequency to suggest they were produced in substantial numbers. Many of the coins were undoubtedly melted during this period, because Benjamin Franklin observed that pewter was sorely needed for the canteens used by soldiers in the Continental Army. The most reasonable explanation for the brass examples is that they represent dies trials. The silver coins are of full weight and value, suggesting that a precious-metal coinage was contemplated, but the Continental Congress was chronically short of funds and had no reliable supply of silver, so this idea must have been abandoned quickly.

Instead they stuck with the paper notes which were cheap to produce but depreciated at an alarming rate. There were too many of them in circulation, and the British took advantage of their weakness to distribute huge amounts of counterfeit notes, devaluing them even further. Within three years of the first issue Continentals had dropped to 1/5th of their face value. A year later they had plummeted to 1/40th of their face value. A year after that they were no longer being used as currency at all. It wasn’t until the Constitution was ratified that Continentals finally scraped up a little bit of worth: 1% of face value to be exchanged for treasury bonds.

Franklin’s fabulous design got another bite at the currency apple in 1787 when it graced the first official penny of the United States of America, today known as the Fugio Cent after the Latin “I fly” legend.

29 thoughts on “Continental Currency coin sold for $1,410,000

  1. i work two blocks away from liberty bell in downtown philadelphia. i recently came across the town house lived once by a famous engraver of the revolutionary era, while on my lunch break walking around where i worked. the sign outside of the townhouse stated that he engraved all the early US currency. i wonder if it’s the same man who did this.

  2. I have a pewter version of this coin. What is the current value, should I expect to sell it or insure it?

    Any advice is appreciated.

  3. I have one that’s slightly damaged on one side. And there’s an imprint very small that says “copy”, but it’s very old. Any info? I could send a photo.

  4. Hi Enrique, Mine only has one r also. Did you get a reply to your question? I’m also wondering if it has any value. Thanks.

  5. I have have found one with one R as well and it says copy on front not on back in one of 13 circles. On the front of it. Does anyone know what it’s worth?

  6. I have one too that has just won are on it and it’s so if 1776 is made of pewter I too would like to know how much It is worth.

  7. So as I can see, unless you pay as a member to Heritage, you’re not going to get any answers. I haven’t heard a word since my first post. I know it’s real, my dad had it confirmed as it was his first before he died. I’m not going to send it away to be graded because I’m afraid I won’t get “mine” back. I did the pawn stars thing and they said bring it in…yeah right!!!
    I too live in NV. :no:

  8. Hi, I have one that does not say copy or replica. How do I know if it’s real? Does anyone know what the weight of the real coins are?

  9. I have one that is pewter and currency spelled with only one R it doesn’t have the word copy or letter R any where on it to indicate it’s a replica. Do I have one of the rarest of them and what is its worth?

  10. I have one that is pewter and dated 1776 and the word currency spelt with only one “r”. What would the value of it be?

  11. i have a copper casting of a fugio coin but it is 4″x4″ sq and weighs about 2 lbs we are on american congress and all the states are labled been trying for some time tofind out where it comes from have shown it to coin dealers and they have no clue other than it is old. any comments be appreciated

  12. Have a medallion, Continental Currency 1776 it is made to hang on a chain
    Does it have a value?

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