The new design for the U.S. one cent coin, with a shield on the reverse (which I noted on this blog in a post on March 8, 2010), has sparked a bit of a discussion in the world of numismatics (coins and coin collecting).
There’s a nice article entitled “Shield Theme Can Guide Collectors” (on-line at http://www.numismaster.com/ta/numis/Article.jsp?ad=article&ArticleId=10566) which discusses in a bit of detail the history of the use of shields on American coinage over the years, going back at least as far as 1787.* The author, Ginger Rapsus of the Numismatic News, also discusses the different shield shapes that have been used, and mentions heraldry a couple of times.
All in all, I found it an interesting article that not only includes the usage of shields in United States coins but also the shields roots in the world of heraldry. It’s definitely worth a read.
* For my non-U.S. readers, yes, I know that 1787 isn’t really all that long ago to you. But as has been noted humorously before, “The difference between Europeans and Americans is that Europeans think a hundred miles is a long way, and Americans think a hundred years is a long time.”