The 1793 Chain Cents were the first regular issue coins made at the fledging United States mint, which was located just a few blocks from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Despite the efforts of the founding fathers to attract an experienced die maker to work at the first mint, their efforts failed. As a result the early U.S. mint was staffed by inexperienced artisans, and it showed, at least these very early pieces.
Although the Chain Cents are collectors’ treasures today, the design came in for a lot of criticism when it appeared in March of 1793. The continuous links of chain that appeared on the reverse were intended to symbolize unity among the states, but they reminded some commentators of slavery. “Liberty in chains” became the operative criticism of the day, and the design was discontinued after only a month in production.
There are five die varieties of Chain Cents. One is very rare with only two or three examples known. Among the other four, which are all collectable, two have distinctive characteristics. The first variety, which is known as the A-MER-I reverse, features the word “AMERICA” spelled as “AMERI.” The fourth variety, which is represented by the coin pictured here, has periods at the end of the word “LIBERTY” and the date. The image of Ms. Liberty is also a bit more civilized in appearance than she is on the other four varieties. For that reason, this piece is generally viewed as the last of the Chain Cents that the first mint produced.