What is 'The Coinage Act Of 1792'

The Coinage Act of 1792, more commonly known as the Mint Act or the Coinage Act, was a regulation passed by Congress on April 2, 1792 that established the U.S. Mint. This act also created five officers of the Mint and laid the foundation for the modern U.S. currency.

BREAKING DOWN 'The Coinage Act Of 1792'

The Coinage Act of 1792 established the U.S. coinage system and placed the Mint at the seat of the U.S. government. The law created U.S. eagles, dollars, dismes (dimes), cents, and half-denominations of each unit; the value of each of these coins was dependent on the type (gold, silver, copper) and amount of material used to make them.

Eagles, half eagles, and quarter eagles were minted from gold, and worth $10, $5, and $2.50 respectively. Dollars, half dollars, quarter dollars, dismes and half dismes were minted from silver, and were worth $1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10, and $0.05 respectively. Cents and half cents were minted from copper, and were worth $0.01 and $0.005 respectively.

The Act pinned the value of the U.S. silver dollar to that of the Spanish silver dollar, which was circulating widely at the time; the Mint employed a 0.900 fine standard to the silver coinage of 1794 and 1795, as compared to the 0.8924+ fine standard employed by the Spanish dollar. The Coinage Act established a decimal system for U.S. currency, and created the United States silver dollar as the nation’s unit of currency.

Design of Coins

The Coinage Act further dictated the markings to be inscribed upon the coins minted. One side of each coin was to be inscribed with the word “Liberty,” the year of the coinage, and an image symbolizing liberty. The reverse side of the silver and gold coins was to be inscribed with the image of the eagle and the words “United States of America.” Copper coins were to be inscribed with their denomination on the reverse side as well.

Additional Provisions

The Coinage Act allowed any person to have silver or gold bullion coined at the Mint, or exchange it for the equivalent value of coin, free of charge. The Mint Act established quality control measures for the assaying of coins that would remain in effect until 1980, when the United States Assay Commission was abolished. The law also established a penalty of death for the debasement of gold or silver coins, or the embezzlement of same by the officers of the mint; this portion of the Act remains in effect today, although the minting of silver and gold coinage is now extremely limited.

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