The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 47, November 20, 20222022, Article 23


Dick Hanscomb passed along this article about the Fugio cent. Thanks. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. -Editor

Fugio cent Perhaps the United States of America would not have become so politicized had we all followed a good piece of advice from Benjamin Franklin.

In Benjamin Franklin's 1737 book, Poor Richard's Almanac, he stated what would be his literal and figurative idea behind money, A penny saved is two pence clear. Contrary to popular belief, Franklin, who was known for his invaluable maxims, never wrote the phrase, A penny saved is a penny earned.

The Fugio cent was created in response to small currency coin shortages during that period, as the Colonies were tired of relying on Great Britain's supply of coins, particularly small currency copper coins, the production of which was paused in 1775. It is estimated that two-thirds of all copper coins traded in Great Britain were counterfeit by the mid 1780s, and in 1787 Great Britain began using privately made Conder Tokens made of copper for smaller currency.

On the back of the Franklin cent, introduced in 1787, there are thirteen rings symbolizing the original thirteen colonies in a literal sense. These linked rings create an unbroken chain encircling, We are one, along with United States.

Beyond its broader figurative significance, Franklin regarded the number thirteen as an important number in his own philosophy. Throughout the coin's design, Franklin imbues his ethical and moral positions along with literal and symbolic messaging. He provides an exact weight of 10 grams of copper, or 157.5 grains. Even the subtle addition of grooved edges is a homage to historical moral character and the relation to money as it equally deters clipping or counterfeiting.

And there's more. In 1752, Franklin openly supported the change to the Gregorian calendar being used throughout the Colonies. Prior to that, only various colonies observed the same calendar year. The Gregorian calendar fits thirteen weeks in by a multiple of four, equaling a total of fifty-two weeks. With each week being dedicated to one of his key virtues for personal development, four times per year.

The thirteen interlocking rings on the coin's design symbolize the colonies and Franklin's virtues. He believed every person should be responsible for their character building. Within his desire for personal development, he proposed thirteen virtues.

In his philosophy of personal progress, he believed people should dedicate a week to practicing each of these respective virtues . After thirteen weeks, when each virtue has been practiced, the cycle begins anew, and this happens four times a year. Franklin believed if each person focused on these virtues for an entire week, four times per year, they would surely progress.

This reflects Franklin's belief that virtue did not come naturally to humans, but was achieved over time through discipline. This was one reason Franklin saw time as precious, and he believed a country's liberty is made by each individual working on themself. As a Stoic, he understood life's delicate and finite number of years, all the way down to the importance of respecting others' time, as well as one's own. Contrary to popular myth, Franklin did not invent Daylight Savings, but he certainly believed in the importance of a strict schedule making the best use of daylight and personal progress throughout one's life.

This too is reflected in the Fugio Cent. On the front of the coin is a sun smiling and shining down onto a sundial, and within the sundial are hours of the day. The word Fugio imprinted on the left is a Latin word meaning I fly, or I flee, but it has more of a philosophical and historical recognition of ‘time flying by,' a theme reflected in three words on the Fugio Cent.

To read the complete article, see:
The Hidden Message on Ben Franklin's Fugio Cent (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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