An Excerpt From The May 14, 1976 Catalog of
The C.W. Krugjohann Collection
The history of the Higley threepence pieces is interesting. The coins are believed to have been struck by Dr. Samuel Higley, a Connecticut physician and metallurgist. In 1727 Higley formulated a way to make steel, and subsequently he was the first in America to manufacture this metal. In 1727 he acquired a parcel of real estate near the famous Granby copper mines and about a mile and a half south of them. He began mining copper ore and exported his metal to Britain.
The circumstances surrounding the Higley coinage are unknown. As a number of die combinations are known, the original coinage must have been fairly extensive for the time. However, the Higley coppers have always been great rarities, indicating that few survived past the original time of issue. A reason for this was advanced by Sylvested S. Crosby in 1875 (cf. page 326 of The Early Coins of America):
“These coppers, owing to the fine quality of the metal of which they were composed, were much in favor as an alloy for gold, and it is probably due in part to this cause that they are now so extremely rare. We are informed of an old goldsmith, aged about seventy-five years, that during his apprenticeship, his master excused himself for not having finished a string of gold beads at the time appointed, as he was unable to find a Higley copper with wich allow the gold; thus indicating that they were not easily obtained 60 years ago.[Ed. note: 60 years prior to Crosby’s 1875 writing would have been 1815.]
Crosby further tells how the original legend of THE VALUE OF THREE PENCE was changed to VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE:
“We hav heard it related of Higley, that being a frequent visitant at the public house, where at that time liquors were a common and unprohibited article of traffic, he was accustomed to pay his ‘scot’ in his own coin, and the coffers of the drum-seller soon became overburdended with this kind of cash, (an experience not at all likely to cause trouble to collectors of the present day!) of the type which proclaims its own value to be equal to what was then the price of a ‘potation’ — three pence.
When complaint was made to Higley, upon his next application for entertainment, which was after a somewhat longer absence that was usual with him, he presented coppers bearing the words VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE. I AM GOOD COPPER.
Whether this ‘change of base’ facilitated the financial designs of the ancient coiner or not, we have never been informed: sure we are however, that should he be aware of the immense appreciation in the value of his coppers since that day, it would amply reward him for the insulting conduct of the publican.
We cannot vouch for the truth of this legend, but we believe those first issued bore the words THE VALUE OF THREE PENCE, and, whatever the cause, subsequent issues more modestly requested the public to value them according to their own ideas of propriety, although they did not refrain from afterwards proclaiming their own merits.”
In May 1737, the date on the coinage, Dr. Samuel Higley died while on a voyage to England. The coinage was continued by his older brother John.