An Excerpt From The October 17, 1987 Catalog of
The Norweb Collection of Early American and U.S. Coins
Among all early American copper issues, the pieces struck by Samuel Higley and his brother John, Jr. are some of the most interesting. Their enigmatic and idiosyncratic iconography has never been adequately explained.
On July 29, 1728 Samuel Higley purchased 143 acres of property lying next to his inherited family lands in Simsbury, Connecticut. Included in the parcel, which cost 500 pounds sterling in New England money, were 40 acres which included the site of a copper mine, from whence Samuel Higley drew the metal for his tokens. Some time around the year 1737 a copper token was struck, valued at threepence. In the same year, other tokens were produced bearing the legend VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE. The same valuation appeared on tokens dated 1739. The change in value, from a stated threepence to a “value me as you please” is popularly explained by local merchants’ reluctance to accept at threepence value a coin no larger than an English halfpenny.
Higley coppers are found dated 1737, 1739, and without a date (possibly struck in 1737). Eight obverse dies have been recorded, linked with five reverse dies, the 13 known in 15 combinations. This suggests a fairly large output. Nevertheless, the number of coppers that survives today is very small, probably no more than between 60 and 80 specimens of all combinations known. In general, survivors are found on heavily worn planchets in grades of Good to Fine. Specimes above Fine are extremely rare, and Extremely Find is almost unheard of.
The Norweb Collection contains three different Higley coppers, an unusually large number for any one collection. it should be noted that, while the Garrett (1980) Collection featured four Higleys, and the Roper (1983) Collection featured seven, the unusually large number of appearances of the Higley copper in these two sales is an historical anomaly. A review of auction catalogues of sales conducted between 1945 and 1967 shows but two specimens of the Higley copper offered at auction over those 23 years. Prior to 1980, the appearance of a Higley copper in any auction catalogue was a noteworthy event and received much publicity in the numismatic world. Any collection of colonial era coins containing a single Higley copper is an important one. The late Richard Picker’s collection, sold by Stack’s in 1983, featured two specimens.