1787 Immunis Columbia Copper, AU55
1787 PIECE Immunis Columbia, Eagle Reverse, Wide Planchet AU55
W-5680, R-7. 167.8 grains. Once called pattern issues to
support a March 1787 coinage proposal, the Immunis Columbia pieces
may actually have been struck for circulation at the end of the
Rare Eagle Reverse, Broad-Flan, Breen-1136
One of Four Known
Ex: Parmelee, Ten Eyck, Newcomer, Green
There are two formats known for the 1787 Immunis Columbia coins. The narrow planchet coins are typically 26 to 27 mm., with about 100 examples known. The wide planchet overstrikes, such as this piece from the Eric P. Newman Collection, are about 29 to 30 mm., with just four examples believed to survive. Typically, overstruck coins used random coppers pulled from circulation to provide additional planchet stock. However, each of the known wide planchet Immunis Columbia pieces are on identical New Jersey varieties, suggesting the "random copper" theory is incorrect. Instead, it is almost certain that these Immunis Columbia pieces were coined alongside certain New Jersey coppers.
In New Jersey State Coppers, Roger Siboni, John Howes, and Buell Ish identify the broad planchet overstrikes as 1) an example in the Col. Phares O. Sigler Collection; 2) the present Newman coin; 3) an example in the 1976 ANA sale; and 4) the Garrett specimen.
The most detailed study available for these coins is "The 1787 'New York' Immunis Columbia, A Mystery Re-Ravelled," by Michael Hodder, in The Colonial Newsletter, January 1991, pages 1203-1235. Hodder examined all aspects of the issue and determined that these pieces were struck at the end of the 1780s, from late 1788 to the middle of 1789. Matthias Ogden likely produced the Immunis Columbia pieces at the Rahway Mint, where he also coined the New Jersey 16-S and 26-S varieties. Hodder writes:
"It is probable that the entire issue was planned for circulation, and was not struck to support Matthias Ogden's March 3, 1787 coinage proposal, but rather, to provide Ogden with another source of revenue free from the 10% seigniorage payable to the state on the New Jersey coinage."
Eric P. Newman wrote on the back of his envelope "Pattern by Ogden to get Federal franchise." Included in the envelope was an advertisement for the memorable example offered in this sale, offering pictures of the coin and saying:
1787 IMMUNIS COLUMBIA copper
Struck at the Rahway Mint as a pattern for Matthias Ogden's March 23, 1787
Petition to strike coppers for Congress.
While they disagree about the intent of the coinage, pattern or business strike, Newman and Hodder agree that the coiner was Matthias Ogden at the Rahway Mint. Others have suggested that the Immunis Columbia pieces were coined by James F. Atlee. Hodder responds:
"The identification of James F. Atlee as the die cutter for the Immunis issue is reexamined and challenged, suggesting a reappraisal of his role in all other copper issues that have traditionally been ascribed to his hand."
The present example is exceptionally original and high-end for the AU55 NGC grade, as indicated by the NGC Star designation. The coin is a highlight of the Eric P. Newman colonials, both for its rarity and its immaculate preservation. The oversized flan allows the Immunis Columbia design to be viewed in its entirety, including all dentilation, the legends, and a full date. Ample evidence of the undertype exists on both sides of the coin, especially at the margins where a second row of dentils remains from the undertype. Rich, medium-brown surfaces are glossy and softly lustrous - boldly struck, with hints of orange-brown patina around the sharp devices. It is believed James Atlee made the dies for this eagle-reverse variety as well as for a second design, the crudely made 1786-dated pattern, aptly dubbed the "pterodactyl" variety.
The 1787 broad-flan design is not to be confused with the more common Immunis Columbia pieces that were struck on smaller diameter planchets, with the legends and/or the date running off the too-small flans. Those coins are thought to have been struck later than the broad-flan coins, possibly at the Rahway mint in 1788 or perhaps even later, after Matthias Ogden established a new mint in Elizabethtown, NJ.
Ogden was a notable Revolutionary War figure and served as a member of the state's legislative council in 1785. He supervised his partners at the Rahway mint and held a surety bond, which allowed him to take control of the Rahway mint's assets and the firm's New Jersey copper cent contract after a falling out of the partners doomed the Rahway operations.
Ex: Lorin G. Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), Lot 596; James Ten Eyck; Albany Historical Society; James Ten Eyck (B. Max Mehl, 5/1922), Lot 845; Waldo Newcomer (circa 1931 via B. Max Mehl); "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; B.G. Johnson in the early 1940s; Eric P. Newman, purchased for $50.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. (NGC ID# BFJL, PCGS# 841)
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