With a big enough barn and enough feed, a collector could assemble
quite a zoo featuring only animals depicted on early American coins.
It might be less messy and less noisy to just collect all the coins instead.
Eagles occur in plenty, from the crude rendition on the New Yorke
in America token to the chicken-looking bird of the 1791 Washington,
Small Eagle cent. Perhaps on the 1791 Washington, Large Eagle cent,
the bird has pretensions of authenticity. You’d need a whole aviary to
house all of the various eagles on early American coins: the one on
the Brasher doubloon, those on Massachusetts cents and half cents, the
Immune and Immunis Columbia pieces, the 1792 Getz patterns and more.
Which Colonial coin is the only one with an eagle on both sides?
The New York Excelsior copper with Eagle reverse is the coin.
Among other birds in your Colonial menagerie would be common
songbirds, namely those found on the 1783 Chalmers shilling. They’re
seen fighting over the collection’s only invertebrate, an earthworm,
and ignoring the only reptile in the collection, a snake.
Snakes and birds are also seen on some varieties of Saint
Patrick’s farthings. On a few rare varieties, a little bird appears
that has been long identified as a martlet — one more addition to the aviary.
Among the other critters seen on the hundreds of die varieties of
Saint Patrick’s pieces are what researcher Walter Breen called “sea
beasts” and tiny pigs. The pigs look much tinier and friendlier than
the hogges of the Sommer Islands coins.
Joining pigs in the Colonial coin petting zoo are horses of every
size and description. So many different types of horseheads appear on
the New Jersey coppers that they even get described as resembling
other animals: camels, llamas, deer, even serpents. And don’t forget
the tiny horse on the reverse of the Virginia halfpence.
You might want to have a pool for beavers to play in, since they
appear on the 1796 Castorland medal and the 1820 Northwest Company
token. It’s probably best to keep them away from the stealthy running
fox on the reverse of some New Jersey coppers, however. The same could
be said for the innocent-looking deer of the Higley coppers. Of
course, the predatory foxes might become prey themselves if they were
kept near the lions from the reverses of Virginia halfpence and
American Plantation tokens, or the one found hidden on the reverse of
the Auctori Plebis tokens.
Since elephants tend to assemble in groups, it’s a good thing they
appear on the London, Carolina and New England Elephant tokens.
They’ll be much happier with some company.
John Kraljevich Jr. is an independent professional numismatist and
researcher specializing in early American coinage.