Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Coinage Act (1792)
The Coinage Act, passed by the U.S. Congress on April 2, 1792, established the U.S. Mint and regulated coinage of the United States. The long title of the legislation is An act establishing a mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States.
By the Act, the Mint was to be situated at the seat of government of the United States. The five original officers of the U.S. Mint were a Director, an Assayer, a Chief Coiner, an Engraver, and a Treasurer (not the same as the Secretary of the Treasury). The Act allowed that one person could perform the functions of Chief Coiner and Engraver. The Assayer, Chief Coiner and Treasurer were required to post a $10,000 bond with the Secretary of the Treasury.
Notably, the act established a decimal standard for U.S. currency. The Act authorized production of the following coins:
- Eagles - $10 - 247 4/8 grain pure or 270 grain standard gold
- Half Eagles - $5 - 123 6/8 grain pure or 135 grain standard gold
- Quarter Eagles - $2.50 - 61 7/8 grain pure or 67 4/8 grain standard gold
- Dollars or Units - $1 - 371 4/16 grain pure or 416 grain standard silver
- Half Dollars - $0.50 - 185 10/16 grain pure or 208 grain standard silver
- Quarter Dollars - $0.25 - 92 13/16 grain pure or 104 grains standard silver
- Dismes - $0.10 - 37 2/16 grain pure or 41 3/5 grain standard silver
- Half Dismes - $0.05 - 18 9/16 grain pure or 20 4/5 standard silver
- Cents - $0.01 - 11 pennyweights of copper
- Half Cents - $0.005 - 5 1/2 pennyweights of copper
The coins were to contain the following markings:
- One side was to have an impression emblematic of liberty, with the inscription "Liberty", and the year of the coinage.
- The reverse side of each of the gold and silver coins was to have the figure or representation of an eagle with the inscription "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".
- The reverse of the copper coins was to have an inscription expressing the denomination.
The Act defined the proportional value of gold and silver as 15 units of pure silver to 1 unit of pure gold. Standard gold was defined as 11 parts pure gold to one part alloy composed of silver and copper. Standard silver was defined as 1485 parts pure silver to 179 parts copper alloy.
Any person could bring gold or silver bullion and have it coined free of charge or for a nominal fee exchange it immediately for equivalent value of coin.
Quality control measures were implemented in that from each separate mass of gold or silver used to produce coins, three coins were set aside by the treasurer. Once each year, under the inspection of the Chief Justice, the Secretary and Comptroller of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General, on the last Monday in July, the coins were to be assayed and if the coins do not meet established standards, the officers were disqualified from office. Further, the penalty for fraud or embezzlement by officers or employees of the mint was death.
- Facsimile of the act in the Statutes at Large from the Library of Congress
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