An Excerpt From The October 1, 1980 Catalog of
The Garrett Collection Sales for the John Hopkins University, Part III
The above illustration represents an entirely new discovery in the Colonial series, being a variety of the well-known Higley series of coppers that has never been mentioned or known of until a short time ago, when it came into the possession of Mr. Howland Wood among a lot of old coppers. It was covered with dirt and verdigris to such an extent that its character was not suspected until it had been thoroughly cleaned.
The reverse of this interesting coin bears the same device as Crosby’s Type No. 3, Reverse C., which is illustrated on Plate VIII. of his work on the “Early Coins of America,” and bears the number of 24. This is the broadaxe device, with the motto “I CUT MY WAY THROUGH.” This reverse goes with the undated variety of the Higley pieces, which has the deer obverse, in contrast to the varieties bearing dates, respectively 1737 and 1739.
This would seem to show that the new variety was struck about the same time as No. 24. The curious obverse of the new variety, however, is entirely different in design from that of the other pieces of the series, although its quaintness of inscription clearly indicates the same origin. “THE WHEELE GOES ROUND,” with the wheel as the central device, is exactly the same workmanship as the Higleys showing the deer, and the letters and index hand are undoubtedly from the same punches.
This variety, which is believed to be absolutely unique, was first described in July 1913 in The Numismatist, the official journal of the American Numismatic Association. The original discovery description is reproduced on page 63 of The History of United States Coinage as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection as well as in the present catalogue. Below the title “A NEW VARIETY OF THE HIGLEY COPPERS” appeared an illustration of the coin, with the wheel side designated as the obverse.
[After the description in The Numismatist] the coin was subsequently sold to Henry Chapman, who billed it as the world’s most valuable copper issue. It later went into the collection of Col. James W. Ellsworth, from whom John Work Garrett acquired it in March 1923.
The obverse (wheel side) is Very Fine, as illustrated. The reverse is not as sharp and can be graded Fine, with a slight weakness in the lower right quadrant due to a severely broken die.
This piece has been described in several places. An illustration of it appears on page 13 of Scott’s Encyclopedia of United States Coins 1976 edition. The issue is described on page 25 of A Guide Book of United States Coins but is not illustrated. In both references it is designated as unique.
The meaning of the inscription of THE WHEELE GOES ROUND is a matter of conjecture. Today the same expression is sometimes heard and has the meaning that sooner or later one will have another chance at a situation, for history tends to repeat itself. For example, if you do a person a favor, “the wheel goes round” and later that same person may be in a position to repay the favor, and so on. Whether it had the same meaning in Dr. Higley’s day the cataloguer doesn’t know. Perhaps it could have referred to the fact that “business goes on as usual,” another meaning of the term.
The appearance of the present coin should delight connoisseurs and specialists, for it has been over a half century since the opportunity to acquire this unique piece has occurred. Once sold, it is realistic to expect that the opportunity will not recur for a long time, if ever (in the event that the piece goes to a museum and is permanently impounded). Certainly this is one of the greatest, most significant, most important, and most historic coins in the Garrett Collection sales.
Obtained by John Work Garrett from Col. James W. Ellsworth. Earlier owned by Henry Chapman. Discovered by Howland Wood and first illustrated and published in July 1913, as noted in the preceding description.