An Excerpt From The May 11, 2004 Catalog of
The John J. Ford, Jr. Collection of Numismatic American History, Part II
The Higley coppers are our first homegrown copper coins. Struck ca. 1737-1739 by Samuel Higley, this very rare copper coinage is more elusive than almost any other single series in colonials. Any sale with a single Higley copper in it is considered noteworthy. Two Higleys in one sale is remarkable. The Norweb sale in 1987 included three Higleys and it was considered unusually large. The Garret sale featured four Higleys and was described as a landmark. The Zabriskie Collection had six Higley coppers. The Ford Collection includes a full seven Higley coppers and is equalled only by the 1983 Roper auction, which had the same number.
Samuel Higley (1687-1737) was born in Simsbury, Connecticut and lived there most of his life. His father was well connected, having served in the local militia and as a local and county judge. Samuel went to Yale College and later learned medicine from local doctors, receiving a license to practice in 1717. In 1728, he bought land in Simsbury that included the site of a copper mine. The same year, he obtained a 10 year patent from the Connecticut General Assembly for making steel from cast iron. In May, 1737 Higley shipped a load of local copper ore to England but the vessel sank, taking Samuel Higley with it.
Higley struck his copper coins locally. The first issue is believed to have been the one dated 1737 with the threepence denomination, followed by the 173 / and the undated coins without a set denomination. The 1739 dated ones were last but since Higley died two years earlier, no one knows exactly who struck the 1739 pieces.
There are three major types in the Higley series: deer with hammers reverse, deer with broadaxe reverse, and wheel with broadaxe reverse. Only the first two are collectable as the third is unique. There are variations in the legends and dates on Higleys that expand the number of collectable types into the following seven:
1. Obverse: Deer, THE VALVE OF THREE PENCE. Reverse: Three crowned hammers, CONNECTIVT 1737.
2. Obverse: Deer, THE VALVE OF THREE PENCE. Reverse: Three crowned hammers, I AM GOOD COPPER 1737.
3. Obverse: Deer, VALVE ME AS YOU PLEASE. Reverse: Three crowned hammers, I AM GOOD COPPER 1737.
4. Obverse: Deer, VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE. Reverse: Three crowned hammers, I AM GOOD COPPER 1737.
5. Obverse: Deer, VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE. Reverse: Broadaxe, J CUT MY WAY THROUGH.
6.0bverse: Deer, VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE. Reverse: Broadaxe, J CUT MY WAY THROUGH 1739.
7. Obverse: Wheel, THE WHEELE GOES ROUND. Reverse: Broadaxe, J CUT MY WAY THROUGH.
As noted, all Higleys are rare. The only published census of surviving specimens appeared in the 1994 ANS COAC volume on the token. Authored by Higley specialist Dan Friedus, it listed 63 different specimens spread across all the known varieties. The cataloguer extends his thanks to Dan for his assistance with the lots to follow. A few more pieces have come to light since but the total number is still comfortably within the cataloguer’s guess of 60 to 80 published in the first Norweb catalog. Given the uncertain state of our knowledge about rarity and the more obscure question of condition census, no really useful estimates about either will be made. Since Higley coppers usually come on rough and worn planchets and grade Good to Fine, the quality of the Ford collection speaks for itself.