US Coins

‘Wholesome’ and plugged Higley copper tops $20,000

Before the first U.S. coins were struck for widespread circulation at the Philadelphia Mint in 1793, a wide variety of coins circulated in America including a mix of foreign coins and Colonial and Confederation issues. The broad label of “Colonial issues” encompasses multiple major types, and most people’s introduction to this area comes through A Guide Book of United States Coins — the “Red Book” — which lists major varieties. Specialists have gone into exhaustive detail in each of these areas, and the coins aren’t always pretty. Here are three that were offered by Stack’s Bowers Galleries at the Whitman Baltimore Expo that show that these historically important issues don’t have to be attractive to be very expensive.

Here's one of the “ugly” Colonial rarities we profile in this week’s Market Analysis:

The Lot:

Undated (1737) Higley copper, Fine Details, Plugged

The Price:


The Story:

Higley coppers were independently produced from copper owned by Dr. Samuel Higley’s mine in Connecticut. The tokens were pure copper and many examples show heavy wear. Originally the issue was supposed to be valued as a threepence, but when these were devalued in the areas where they circulated, Higley changed the obverse legend to VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE.

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This undated copper is listed by Dan Freidus as the 3.3-C variety and is traditionally dated to 1737. As the Stack’s Bowers cataloger notes in the description, even attributing the production of these tokens to Dr. Higley is problematic because he died at sea in May 1737 and tokens may have been produced by his son, but that is not confirmed.

The SS Central America wreckage just keeps on givingSS Central America reveals thousands of new findings, celebrating the ‘house organ’: Another column in the June 19 Coin World expounds on some intriguing half dollar varieties.

These charming issues remain popular, and this one, “a wholesome example for the assigned grade that offers considerable boldness of detail,” is graded Fine Details, Plugged, by Professional Coin Grading Service; the light tan plug at 5 o’clock relative to the obverse is obvious. It sold for $21,150.

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