P. Scott Rubin: What is one of the most unusual coins in U.S. coinage is also one of the shortest lived. The one Cent coin issued by the U.S. Government in 1935 for the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation (ARRC) was made legal tender for use at the ARRC’s own stores. Three things make this one cent piece unique for issued coinage of the denomination. First is its shape, it is octagonal, second it is made of aluminum and lastly it has the same design on both sides. Up until this coin was issued only pattern coinage made by the United States had been made in this metal. It also, appears to be the only issued one cent piece struck with eight sides and the same design on both sides.
While this coin was struck with a series of coins including the 5 Cent, 10 Cent, 25 Cent, 50 Cent, One Dollar, 5 Dollar and 10 Dollar denomination only the one cent was not round. The other denominations were struck in aluminum up to the One Dollar and the $5 and $10 coins were struck in brass, and they were all in the same size of the corresponding regular issue U.S. coins.
This coin and the others issued for the ARRC were part of the Matanuska Valley Colonization Project, which during the Great Depression brought about 200 families from the Mid-West to farm in Alaska. It is believed that these coins including the octagonal cent became currency used outside the ARRC stores because currency was so scarce at the time.
However, useful this coin was, in about a year or two the legal tender status of the coins were removed and the coins recalled. It is believed only a couple hundred coins of each denomination were saved after the recall making this coin scarce in today’s collecting market, even though almost all the remaining coins are in Mint State condition or close to it.