With the strong tradition of the New England, and Willow, Oak, and Pine Tree coins of the 17th century, it should be no surprise that the State of Massachusetts, under the new post revolutionary Confederation, was in the vanguard for implementing its own coinage program. Unlike other states that sold minting franchises to a private group, the Massachusetts mint would, potentially, turn a profit for the Commonwealth. At least, that was the report given to Governor Hancock and the General Court on June 7, 1786. The report stated that the minting of copper coins would produce a significant profit of up to 90% for Massachusetts! After much debate, on October 16, 1786, "An Act for establishing a Mint for the coinage of Gold, Silver and Copper" was passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The following day, the Act passed the Senate and was signed by the Governor into law.

Captain Joshua Wetherle, a Boston goldsmith, was appointed mintmaster for the mint building that was constructed in the rear of his property on Washington Street. Initial dyes for the copper coins were made by Joseph Callender, also of Boston; an engraver who had apprenticed under Paul Revere. After the state decided that Callender's fees were too high, they awarded the contract to Jacob Perkins of Newburyport, Massachusetts. This would ultimately result in several die variations of the cents and half cents. These were the first coins to utilize the denominations, CENT and HALF CENT as established by Congress in July 1785.

The Cents and Half Cents were of proper and consistent weight and were well struck featuring the device of a Massachusett Indian holding a bow and arrow with a star above (as featured on the state seal to this day), and the legend "Massachusetts" on the obverse. The reverse featured an eagle with wings spread and the legend "Massachusetts", along with the date and denomination. These coins, struck in 1787 and 1788, circulated extensively throughout America for several decades. The Massachusetts mint was closed by the state when an audit revealed that the cost of making a coin was equal to double its face value!