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9.11.2010

U.S. Coinage Act Of 1792 - Your Colonial Heritage

United States of America Money Law

"No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit letters of credit; make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility."Article I, Section 10, CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The Coinage Act of April 2, 1792
(1 Stat. 246)

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Mint established at the seat of government.

Section I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, and it is hereby enacted and declared, That a mint for the purpose of a national coinage be, and the same is established, to be situate and carried on at the seat of the government of the United States . . .
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The US Mint
The place where people brought their gold
and silver to make U.S. dollars. You needed
371.25 grains of pure silver or 24.75 grains
of pure gold to mint one dollar.
(A grain is a monetary unit)
The date of July 18, 1792 marks the birth of our Philadelphia Mint. Tradition has it that owing to a lack of bullion, the first coins to be struck at the Mint - silver half dimes - were wrought from sterling teaspoons donated by President Washington. It is said that, a year later, Washington contributed "an excellent copper tea-kettle as well as two pair of tongs" to begin the manufacture of cents and half cents.

Species of the coins to be struck.

Section 9. And be it further enacted, That there shall be from time to time struck and coined at the said mint, coins of gold, silver, and copper, of the following denominations, values and descriptions, viz.
EAGLES--each to be of the value of ten dollars or units, and to contain two hundred and forty-seven grains and four eighths of a  grain of pure, or two hundred and seventy grains of standard gold.
HALF EAGLES--each to be of the value of five  dollars, and to contain one hundred and twenty-three grains and six eighths of a grain of pure, or one hundred and thirty-five grains of standard gold.
QUARTER EAGLES--each to be of the value of two dollars and a half dollar, and to contain sixty-one grains and seven eighths of a grain of pure, or sixty-seven grains and four eighths of a grain of standard gold.
DOLLARS OR UNITS--each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts  of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver.
HALF DOLLARS--each to be of half the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain one   hundred and eighty-five grains and ten sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or two hundred and eight grains of standard silver.
QUARTER DOLLAR--each to be of one fourth the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain ninety-two grains and thirteen sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or one hundred and four grains of standard silver.
DISMES--each to be of the value of one tenth of a dollar or unit, and to contain thirty- seven grains and two sixteenth parts of a
grain of pure, or forty-one grains and three fifths parts of a grain of standard silver.

HALF DISMES--each to be of the value of one twentieth of a dollar, and to contain eighteen grains and nine sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or twenty grains and four fifths parts of a grain of standard silver.
CENTS--each to be of the value of the one hundredth part of a dollar, and to contain eleven penny-weights of copper.
HALF CENTS--each to be of the value of half a cent, and to contain five penny-weights and a half a penny-weight of copper.
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Minting Machine
Two of these (presses) had arrived from England on September 21, 1792, supposedly from the Boulton and Watt Mint at Soho near Birmingham. "These presses were put into operation in the beginning of October, and were used for striking the half dimes of which Washington makes mention in his Annual Address to Congress on the 6th of November, 1792 . ." Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

Of what devices.

Section 10. And be it further enacted, That, upon the said coins respectively, there shall be the following devices and legends, namely: Upon one side of each of the said coins there shall be an impression emblematic of liberty, with an inscription of the word Liberty, and the year of the coinage; and upon the reverse of each of the gold and silver coins there shall be the figure or representation of an eagle, with this inscription, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and upon the reverse of each of the copper coins, there shall be an inscription which shall express the denomination of the piece, namely, cent or half cent, as the case may require.

Proportional value of gold and silver.

Section 11. And be it further enacted, That  the proportional value of gold and silver in all coins which shall by law be current as money within the United States, shall be fifteen to one, according to quantity in weight, of pure gold or pure silver; that is to say, every fifteen pounds weight of pure silver shall be of equal value in all payments, with one pound weight of pure gold, and so in proportion as to any greater or less quantities of the respective metals.

Standard for gold coins, and alloy how to be regulated.

Section 12. And be it further enacted, That  the standard for all gold coins of the United  States shall be eleven parts fine to one part alloy; and accordingly that eleven parts fine to one part alloy; and accordingly that eleven parts in twelve of the entire weight of each of the said coins shall consist of pure gold, and the remaining one twelfth part of alloy; and the said alloy shall be composed of silver and copper, in such proportions not exceeding one half silver as shall be found convenient; to be regulated by the director of the mint, for the time being, with the approbation of the President of the United States, until further provision shall be made by law. And to the end that the necessary information may be had in order to the making of such further provision, it shall be the duty of the director of the mint, at the expiration of a year commencing the operations of the said mint, to report to Congress the practice thereof during the said year, touching the composition of the alloy of the said gold coins, the reasons for such practice, and the experiments and observations which shall have been made concerning the effects of different proportions of silver and copper in the said alloy.

Standard for silver coins--alloy how to be regulated.

Section 13. And be it further enacted, That the standard for all silver coins of the United States, shall be one thousand four hundred and eighty-five parts fine to one hundred and seventy-nine parts alloy; and accordingly that one thousand four hundred and eighty-five parts in one thousand six hundred and sixty-four parts of the entire weight of each of the said coins shall consist of pure silver, and the remaining one hundred and seventy-nine parts of alloy; which alloy shall be wholly of copper.

Penalty of Death for de-basing the coins.

Section 19. And be it further enacted, That if any of the gold or silver coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint shall be debased or made worse as to the proportion of the fine gold or fine silver therein contained, or shall be of less weight or value than the same out to be pursuant to the directions of this act, through the default or with the connivance of any of the officers or persons who shall be employed at the said mint, for the purpose of profit or gain, or otherwise with a fraudulent intent, and if any of the said officers or persons shall embezzle any of the metals which shall at any time be committed to their charge for the purpose of being coined, or any of the coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint, every such officer or person who shall commit any or either of the said offenses, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death.

Money of account to be expressed in dollars, etc.  

Section 20. And be if further enacted, That the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars, or units, dimes or tenths, cents or hundredths, and the milles or thousandths, a dime being the tenth part of a dollar, a cent the hundredth part of a dollar, a mille the thousandth part of a dollar, and that all accounts in the public offices and all proceedings in the courts of the United States shall be kept and had in conformity to this regulation.
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