US Coins

'Mysterious' 1739 Higley copper realizes $54,343 at Newman auction

This mysterious 1739 Higley copper with the Broad Axe reverse graded Good 4 shows heavy wear but has no other troublesome issues. It brought $54,343.75 at Heritage’s May 16, 2014, auction of Eric P. Newman’s collection in New York City.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

The following post is pulled from Coin World editor Steve Roach’s Market Analysis column in the June 16 issue.

Heritage Auction’s fourth sale of the varied numismatic collections of St. Louis numismatist Eric P. Newman took place in New York City on May 16 and May 17. In total, the two days of auctions realized more than $11 million.

The Market Analysis column in the June 9 issue looked at three pieces at the $100, $500 and $1,000 levels. 

This coin is among three fascinating pieces from Newman IV that each sold around the $50,000 level.

The coin: 1739 Higley copper, Good 4, $54,343.75

The story: Higley coppers are mysterious in that numismatists are unsure who struck them. They are named after Dr. Samuel Higley, who owned a copper mine in Connecticut; he died at sea in May 1737 while delivering a load of copper ore to England. Tokens of the type carrying a date of 1737 and 1739 are known, and many are well-worn.

This example is one of just seven pieces known of the specific variety, characterized by the presence of the date — 1739 — just below the blade of the axe on the reverse. 

In total seven obverse and four reverse dies were used to strike Higley coppers. The coppers generally either provide a value of three pence or invite users, “value me as you please.” If people who would use the coin in contemporary commerce had any doubts, some examples carry the reverse legend I AM GOOD COPPER. 

This particular example has the VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE obverse while the reverse has a broad axe with the error legend J CUT MY WAY THROUGH. 

Higley coppers often have some damage. This piece, graded Good 4 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., brought $54,343.75.

Read the rest of Roach's Market Analysis column:

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