1737 COPPER Higley Copper, CONNECTICVT AU50 NGC. Crosby VIII-17, Freidus 1.1-A, W-8190, R.8. ...
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Finest Known of the Variety
One of the Finest of All Higley Coppers
Crosby, Breen, and Freidus Plate Coin
The Simsbury, Connecticut medical doctor, Samuel Higley, owned 143 acres of land that included a copper mine in the vicinity of an area known as Copper Hill, a copper-producing region since the beginning of the 18th century. The area later became known as Granby, Connecticut, and though that name is often associated with these nearly-pure copper pieces, Granby was not established until 1786, 50 years later. A 2011 article at granby-eastgranby.patch.com identifies Higley's property as the present-day farm at 79 Holcomb Street, less than five miles due west of Bradley International Airport.
Most of what we know today about the Higley coppers was recorded by Daniel Freidus in "The History and Die Varieties of the Higley Coppers" (The Token: America's Other Money, Coinage of the Americas Conference, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1995, Richard G. Doty, editor). Freidus identified an impressive array of 15 different die varieties produced in the late 1730s, from 1737 to 1739.
Samuel Higley was born in 1687, shortly after his parents' 1684 arrival in Simsbury. He was the well-educated son of a wealthy merchant, and studied medicine with Samuel Mather and Thomas Hooker. In addition to his medical practice, Higley was an active blacksmith who was granted the exclusive right to make steel by the Connecticut General Court, and his knowledge of steel-making undoubtedly played a role in the production of these coins. There is no direct documentary evidence that proves Higley made these coppers. Freidus writes:
"So why do we believe that these copper tokens are indeed the work of Samuel Higley? Basically, we have two lines of evidence. First, family lore. Not to be totally discounted, but neither should these legends be considered totally reliable. Second, his known ability as a steelmaker. While many people in Simsbury were skilled metalworkers, most would have been familiar only with copper or iron work. Striking coins required the ability to work with steel. The evidence points to Samuel Higley."
The first coins were dated 1737, and numismatic tradition suggests they were the work of Samuel Higley. It is believed that Higley died in May 1737 during a sea voyage to England to deliver a shipment of copper from his mine. His death leaves unanswered the maker of the later pieces dated 1739.
The Higley copper series consists of 15 die combinations produced from eight obverse and five reverse dies. Freidus recorded an initial census of 63 surviving examples from all 15 die marriages, individually ranging from one to eight known coins for each variety.
The design on this issue shows a deer on the obverse, and on the reverse three crowned hammers. Breen speculates the deer symbolized freedom, and the hammers represented malleability (then the only test for pure copper). It seems more likely to us that the hammers represent the method of manufacture from hammered dies. Significant evidence exists on the known coins that they were struck in this ancient manner by doubling on the legends, a common occurrence on hammered coins.
This piece is easily identified by Daniel Freidus' attribution system: "The right end of the horizontal line beneath the deer is a useful diagnostic, being between 'N' and 'C' on 1.1 ... The left end of this line is at the edge of the letter 'H' on die 1.1 ... The position of the horns is another diagnostic. On die 1.1 the right horn points between 'O' and 'F' ..." The surfaces are smooth and problem-free on this remarkably high-grade Higley copper. Freidus identified just two examples of this variety, including the Eric P. Newman specimen and another, once part of the John Story Jenks Collection, that appeared in a 1987 Stack's auction with the grade of Fine. This is a most beautiful Higley copper, imbued with both charm and mystery.
Ex: Sylvester S. Crosby (John W. Haseltine, 6/1883), lot 948; later, Waldo Newcomer, who paid $1,600.00; "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; Partnership of Eric P. Newman / B.G. Johnson d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman @ $850.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. (PCGS# 201)
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