The Bank of New York Hoard of Fugio Coppers

The Bank of New York, founded in 1784, came into possession of a keg of original 1787 Fugio copper cents sometime around the time they were manufactured. Over many years, beginning at least by 1859, bank officials passed these out to favored clients and employees and made some available to numismatists. Included were some of the scarce type with UNITED above and STATES below on the label across the reverse (in contrast, most other varieties have these words to the left and right sides).

Engraved by Abel Buell, the Fugio coppers were dated 1787 but struck in 1788. The obverse displays a sundial with the inscription FUGIO ("I Fly," a reference to the passage of time), and MIND YOUR BUSINESS. On the reverse is a circle of links (representing the colonies) with the inscription UNITED STATES—WE ARE ONE at the center. They were specifically issued under the authority of Congress and were struck at James Jarvis’ mint in New Haven, Connecticut.

The keg of coins deposited at the Bank of New York, 44 Wall Street, remained unopened until 1856. After this time the hoard became widely known and, among other citations, was mentioned as follows by W.C. Prime in his book, Coins, Medals, and Seals (copyright 1860, published in 1861): "Within the past year a keg of these [Fugio] coppers was found in the vault of a New York City bank, in fresh proof condition. This statement has been doubted; but we are indebted to the cashier for fine specimens of the contents of the keg, which abundantly prove the truth of the story. A recent discovery of the old dies, and possibly a manufacture of new dies, or repairing and retouching the old, has made these coins very common in various metals."

By about 1948 some 1,641 pieces remained in possession of the bank and were numismatically analyzed by Damon G. Douglas. It was learned that the pieces were made from two batches of planchets weighing on average 143 grains and 155 grains respectively. 

Anthony J. Terranova examined the remainder of the hoard around 1988 and reviewed 819 coins. These were being kept in a cloth sack. Terranova arranged for their transfer to protective holders. Grades ranged from Red Uncirculated to MS-60, water stained. In addition to the 819 loose pieces, there were 50 or 60 pieces embedded in lucite, which the bank had done some time before to present as gifts to favored customers.

Today, numerous Bank of New York Fugio coppers are in private collections, and a selection is in the cabinet of the American Numismatic Society, New York. The typical piece (such as the plentiful Newman variety 12-X) is somewhat casually struck, lightly defined in certain areas (especially the bottom of the obverse) and is apt to have carbon streaks or planchet rifts. Coloration is likely to be a blend of original mint red with brown toning.

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