Only $361.03 worth of warp cents were produced

By Blanchard & Company ……

It’s big, beautiful and very rare.

It is also controversial and was only minted for a year, increasing the rarity value of any survivors today.

The 1793 Cent Chain is one of the first coins that American collectors began to acquire in the 1800s.

Today, the 1793 Chain cent remains a highly sought-after piece of history. The auction record? A fee of US$1.5 million.

The large copper penny in the chain is about the size of a quarter, much larger than modern pennies. It was the first coin in circulation officially produced by the United States currency. A total of 36,103 coins were minted in 1793, the only year the coin was produced. Only a small number of these magnificent Chain Cents have survived over the past 226 years.

Jump over the hurdles

Director of the United States Mint David Rittenhouse faces several challenges in the production of the Chain Cent.

Amid rising world copper prices and tight supplies in 1792, Mr. Rittenhouse arranged for imports of copper sheet from Britain. He also appealed to the United States Congress and successfully won approval for a reduction in the weight of the cent, from 264 to 208 grains to help reduce costs.

A second challenge? The US Mint had no engraver. Rittenhouse convinced Henry Voight, the chief coiner, to cut the first dies. Voight’s previous experience as a watchmaker left him ill-prepared for engraving.

Nonetheless, Voight went ahead and etched the Chain Cent dies in February 1793.

The obverse design featured a Liberty head with flowing hair. The reverse featured a 15-link interlocking chain to represent the 15 US states in existence at the time.

Controversy

An article in the Boston Argus of March 26, 1793 declared: “The chain on the reverse is but a bad omen for Liberty, and Liberty herself seems to be afraid.”

Liberty’s appearance is likely the result of Voight’s inexperience with engraving. While the chain was meant to represent America’s unity and strength, critics said it was symbolic of slavery.

The uproar over the pennies chain design sent the government back to the drawing board. The following year, a crown replaced the chain, and a better Liberty was engraved for the obverse.

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