A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Has the U.S. ever minted a mill coin?

January 27, 1984

Dear Cecil:

Dimes, nickels, and pennies I've seen--but how about a mill? They get plugged on Green Stamps and box tops a lot. Are they extinct?

Cecil replies:

No mills have ever been minted. Defined by the 1786 law that established U.S. coinage as "the lowest money of accompt, of which 1,000 shall be equal to the federal dollar, or money unit," the mill has been the bastard child of the system since its beginning. Even in those pre-inflation days, the smallest coint ever issued was the half-cent. At one time, some states issued "mill tokens" that were used in collecting sales taxes, which, in 1935, prompted Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau to ask Congress for a license to make a coin to replace the states' homemade substitutes. Unfortunately, they thought he was kidding.

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