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All Posts Tagged With: "Connecticut"

Colonial Coins – The Connecticut Coppers

By Thomas K. DeLorey – Courtesy of Harlan J Berk

For a small State, Connecticut has played a large role in the field of colonial American numismatics. Besides being known for its wealth of pre- and post- Revolutionary paper issues, its most famous coins are the Higley Coppers of 1737-39 and the Connecticut Coppers of 1785-89.

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

The Higley coppers were issued by Dr. Samuel Higley and his heirs, using virtually pure copper from a mine they owned near Granby, CT. Higley’s first token issue bore the picture of a deer with the inscription THE. VALVE. OF. THREE. PENCE. on one side, with three crowned hammers, the date 1737 and the inscription CONNECTICVT on the other. It is arguable as to which side should be considered the obverse, but common usage calls the side with the deer the obverse.

The next issue used the same obverse plus a similar reverse with I AM GOOD COPPER replacing CONNECTICVT. Perhaps someone objected to the use of the name of the state on an unauthorized private token. Someone certainly objected to the value Higley placed on the piece, which was no heavier than an English half pence of the period and sometimes lighter, and his third issue saw the deer side changed to VALVE. ME. AS. YOU. PLEASE. A second die saw VALVE spelled as VALUE. Both include the Roman numeral III beneath the deer, thereby hinting at the value that Higley hoped they would pass at.

Higley died in 1737 while escorting a load of his copper to England, and the mine was taken over by his brother, John. John was presumably responsible for a fourth issue that paired the Deer/III obverse with an undated reverse that bore a hatchet with the inscription J. CUT. MY. WAY. THROUGH., and a similar issue that bore the date 1739 below the hatchet. A sixth issue paired the undated hatchet die with an obverse that bore a 12-spoked wheel and the inscription THE. WHEELE. GOES. ROUND., but it is not known if this issue predates or postdates the 1739 issue.

All of the Higley pieces are very rare today, according to legend because they were popular among goldsmiths as a source for pure copper suitable for alloying gold. For an interesting but probably apocryphal legend regarding the supposed reason why Higley valued his tokens at three pence, see “The Early Coins of America” by Sylvester S. Crosby (1875 and reprints). (more…)