Regarding the statement that "The United States' earliest "real coins" (silver and gold) did not carry a denomination", David Gladfelter writes:
This conclusion does not follow from the denominational values shown on the edges of the first half dollar and dollar coins, or on the pattern half dismes and dismes, which I had overlooked. Instead, it appears that whether or not a denominational value was to be placed on our first coins was an arbitrary decision of the chief coiner and/or engraver. Of course, the smaller the coin, the less room for a denominational value on either side or on the edge.
I did check the Mint Act of April 2, 1792. It calls for placement of a denominational value only on the copper coins (sec. 10), but does call for certain devices and legends on all coins (ibid.) Other than that, it was up to the chief coiner to cause coins to be minted "according to such regulations as shall be prescribed by this or any future law," and up to the engraver to prepare dies "with the proper devices and inscriptions" (sec. 3).
Designs incorporating denominational values (and all required devices and legends) could have been prepared for all silver and gold coins, but they were not, with the exceptions noted above. Later acts did require denominational values to be placed on all coins, together with additional inscriptions (e.g. "In God we trust").
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON U.S. COIN DENOMINATIONS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v12n26a14.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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