Copper Pattern Dollar, 1794

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 11/5/2008

Once a new national government had been established under a new Constitution, attention naturally turned to ways of proclaiming national identity. A new, national coinage was one way of doing so, especially if it featured patriotic new images, rather than the endless sequence of crowned monarchs and coats of arms adorning the coinage of Old Europe.

A U. S Mint Act was passed in 1792, and work was quickly underway. Designs were chosen-a depiction of Liberty for obverses, an eagle, or the value within a wreath, for reverses. The first of the new coins, copper cents and half cents, appeared early the following year. By 1794, mint designers were working to create a silver dollar, the flagship of the new denominations. But they first made a trial piece, in copper.

Robert Scot created the dies for this design, a Liberty head with flowing hair for the dollar's obverse; an eagle within a simple wreath for the reverse. The new dies to be used in producing silver dollars were tested with a striking in copper. Copper would took a good impression, and would allow Scot and his associates to see whether the dies were cut deeply enough and would therefore be capable of producing the detail wanted on the final silver product.

Only one piece, this coin, was struck in copper, and it is a unique national treasure.

Use this Investigation Sheet to guide students through describing the object and analyzing its meaning.