Did You Know St. Patrick Appears on Coinage that Circulated in Colonial America in the 17th and 18th Centuries?

With St. Patrick’s Day recently behind us, collectors and other readers of this blog might be interested in a brief exploration of St. Patrick coppers, a popular if not fully understood American colonial issue. Struck in the latter half of the 17th century and circulated in what is today New Jersey, St. Patrick coppers are popular with collectors of colonial coinage. Many can be found in our April 11 Collectors Choice Online Auction of selections from the Sydney F. Martin Collection.

Historians generally agree that the St. Patrick coppers were brought to West New Jersey (the colony was divided longitudinally from 1676 to 1702) in 1681 by an English Quaker named Mark Newby (or Newbie, spellings differ); the coins were granted legal tender status by the General Free Assembly of West New Jersey the next year. Experts think the coins were struck in the 1670s, though many of the details of their production remain elusive. Several theories offer different explanations for the coins’ production, but it is certain that they circulated in New Jersey and the Middle Colonies in the late 17th century.

Two distinct types exist, the farthing and the halfpenny; these names derive from the two different planchet sizes. Researchers think that the two different sizes were actually the same denomination (halfpenny) and that the larger coins were made earlier.

Dozens of examples of this coinage, both farthings and halfpennies, can be found in our April 2023 Collectors Choice Online Auction of Selections from the Sydney F. Martin Collection. Martin wrote what is considered the definitive reference on Saint Patrick Coinage, published in 2018 by C4. Blog readers might consider picking up a copy of Martin’s book if they are interested in diving into the series.

To bid and view lots in the Syd Martin CCO sale, please visit our website.

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