Q. David Bowers
Various proposals were made in the 1780s for a federal mint. All foundered on a lack of money as well as general opposition to such plans by those with a vested interest in producing large quantities of copper coins, such as state governments. One of the most interesting suggestions, however, was formulated by Thomas Jefferson in 1785-1786. He recommended a coinage of gold, silver, and copper. The largest silver coin was to be a dollar, containing 375.64 grains of pure silver while the ratio of gold to silver in the coinage system would be set at 1 to 15.47.
Throughout the 1780s, during an era of hard times, the Spanish dollar-and its fractions-remained the money of choice for the broad mass of citizens in America. These coins were always in short supply, but used by the common people in purchasing the necessities of life. Copper coins from a variety of sources (including pieces struck under contract from or by the states of Connecticut (1785-1788), Vermont (1785-1788; actually, Vermont did not join the Union until 1791), New Jersey (1786-1788), and Massachusetts (1787-1788). were also used.