The 1787 Fugio Cent: America’s First Official Coin
September 14, 2023
The 1787 Fugio Cent, often referred to as the “Franklin Cent” or the “Fugio Copper,” holds a unique place in American numismatic history as the nation’s first official coin. Struck during a time of immense historical significance, this coin bears the name of Benjamin Franklin and carries a message that resonates with the ideals of a young nation. In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating history, design, and significance of the 1787 Fugio Cent.
The Birth of the Fugio Cent
The concept for the Fugio Cent can be traced back to 1785 when the United States faced severe coinage shortages. The newly independent nation lacked a standardized currency system, relying instead on a hodgepodge of foreign coins and various state-issued currencies. Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance, and Benjamin Franklin collaborated on a plan to address this issue.
In 1787, the Continental Congress authorized the production of the Fugio Cent, which was designed by Benjamin Franklin himself. The name “Fugio” is derived from the Latin phrase “Fugio ut Venias,” which translates to “I flee so that you may come.” The coin featured a sundial and thirteen linked rings representing the original thirteen colonies, symbolizing the importance of unity.
Design and Symbolism
The design of the Fugio Cent is a testament to Benjamin Franklin’s ingenuity and his commitment to promoting the idea of time as a valuable resource. The obverse of the coin features a sundial with the Latin inscription “FUGIO” above it and “MIND YOUR BUSINESS” below, emphasizing the importance of industry and prudence.
The reverse of the coin displays thirteen linked rings representing the unity of the colonies, along with the words “UNITED STATES” and “WE ARE ONE.” This design was not only symbolic but also practical, as it helped deter counterfeiting.
The 1787 Fugio Cent holds immense historical significance as America’s first official coin. It was produced at a time when the young nation was still finding its footing economically and politically. The coin served as a tangible representation of the unity and values that would come to define the United States.
The Fugio Cent also played a practical role in everyday commerce. Its design discouraged counterfeiting, and its copper composition made it a valuable addition to the nation’s limited coinage.
Collectibility and Rarity
The Fugio Cent is a prized collectible among numismatists and historians. However, due to its age and limited mintage, genuine examples of the coin are relatively scarce. Collectors often seek well-preserved specimens that exhibit clear details and minimal wear.
The value of a Fugio Cent can vary significantly based on factors like condition, rarity, and historical provenance. Exceptional examples have been known to fetch substantial prices at auctions and in private sales.
Legacy of the Coin
The 1787 Fugio Cent stands as a numismatic treasure and a historical artifact that tells the story of America’s early days. It is a tangible reminder of the nation’s journey toward unity, independence, and the establishment of a standardized currency system. Benjamin Franklin’s ingenious design and the coin’s unique symbolism make it a cherished piece of American history and a testament to the enduring legacy of numismatics in the United States.
I am passionate about the historical, cultural, and artistic aspects of currency. I collect coins and banknotes from various countries and time periods, focusing on specific themes, time periods, or regions that I find interesting. I also love to study the historical context of the currency that influenced coinage and currency issuance.