Last week, this blog covered the Coin Resource Center’s Coin Collector’s Guide to Colonials. Though a very broad category encompassing diverse material, at present the CRC only includes listings for one colonial series, the elusive and storied Higley coppers. Entries covering other colonial material will be added in the foreseeable future.
Higley coppers were struck in the mid-to-late 1730s in Simsbury, Connecticut from copper mined on land owned by Samuel Higley. Whether or not Higley was directly involved in the tokens’ production is unclear, but the moniker stuck.
Dated 1737 and 1739 (some dateless varieties exist), a stag appears on the coins’ obverse, earning them another sobriquet, “deer money.” Text reading “VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE” encircles the design. Three axes topped by crowns appear on the reverse arranged in a triangle formation. Text on the reverse reads “I AM GOOD COPPER.”
One variety, Freidus 4-C, departs fairly dramatically from the design of the other varieties. The obverse features a wheel surrounded by text reading “THE WHEELE GOES ROUND,” and the reverse bears a single axe and the text “J CUT MY WAY THROUGH”
Initially denominated threepence, later Higley coppers bore the legend “VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE,” underscoring, according to some experts, the reluctance of some merchants to accept a threepence coin close in size to a British twopence. A Roman numeral “III” appears on some varieties. It may also reflect merchants’ ambivalence about the fluid, variegated currency landscape of colonial North America.
The coins’ iconography is similarly obscure. Per our CRC listing, “Their enigmatic and idiosyncratic iconography has never been adequately explained.” “Enigmatic” and “idiosyncratic” also describe the series as a whole.
Regardless of how merchants valued them, very few Higley coppers survive and they command substantial prices today. Our estimate stands at 60 to 80 examples.
Eight obverse and five reverse dies have been identified and the CRC includes listings for 14 varieties. The CRC also includes links to useful resources (mainly auction catalog listings from major sales that included Higleys), which illuminate the history and collectability of these rare, enigmatic colonial coins.