The Noteworthy John L. Roper II Collection of Colonial and Early American Coins Part 2

In part 1 of this story about John L. Roper II, I gave a background of the man and his hobby. He loved learning about early colonial history and the money that was struck before the opening of the official U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. He collected early state coinage and colonial coins, acquiring the best he could. He collected during the period when extensive American collections were formed. Our firm has recently sold at auction other great collections formed contemporaneous with Roper’s, such as those of Ted Craige, Jack Royce and John J. Ford to mention but a few.


The love that these collectors and so many others shared for coinage of our country’s early history created a community within numismatics. These legendary coins had history and romance, which attracted collectors to the acquisition of these great early American coins. The common goal was to collect a great representation in the best condition possible and to show them freely at coin club meetings, conventions and privately to their peers.


The John L. Roper II Collection illustrating the early monetary history of America was one of the finest collections formed in the 20th century. The collection was consigned to Stack’s by the executors of the Roper estate, and the United Virginia Bank of Norfolk. The collection portrayed the history of coinage of America from the earliest days starting in 1616 to the coinage of 1792 and some early U.S. Mint specimens. Many were the finest known and were illustrated in the Guide Book and standard catalogs. Some were also from early Chapman sales, in which they were also plated. In addition to the colonial issues the collection included early U.S. Mint patterns from 1792, and a superb offering of half cents and large cents from 1793.


We offered the colonial coin collection for sale in December 1983,and it contained over 400 specimens, mostly choice or finest known. The collection started with the "Hogge" money, the first coins issued in the American colonies. The Massachusetts Bay silver series contained 36 specimens, including the second finest known New England shilling, the finest New England sixpence, two Willow Tree shillings, two Willow Tree sixpence and a wide selection of Oak Tree and Pine Tree coinage.


The coinage of Maryland was complete, including the second finest Denarium, of which only four are known, The St. Patrick or Mark Newby coinage of New Jersey featured 20 different examples and the silver farthing with "nimbus" was one of two known.


There were eight Elephant tokens. The extensive Rosa Americana series was represented by 26 examples including the very rare pattern 1733 twopence. In addition Mr. Roper had 31 specimens of the related Woods coinage, including patterns. Other tokens for America were complete. The Higley tokens struck in 1737 and 1739 numbered seven pieces, including the unique “THE WHEEL GOES ROUND” variety. Then he had the Gloucester shilling, (one of two known) and some of the Voce Populi pieces, original struck for use in Ireland but circulated here in America. The Virginia coinage in the collection, the only pieces officially sanctioned by Britain and struck at the Royal Mint, included a 1774 shilling (one of six known).


Among state coinage, Mr. Roper had 42 Connecticut coppers, 20 New Jerseys, (with the finest known George Washington portrait pieces), 37 Vermonts and eight Massachusetts cents, including the very rare Transposed Arrows variety. The collection also encompassed all types of the diverse New York coinage.


As you can see by this short summary, the colonial coin collection of John L. Roper II was outstanding. The sale of these coins in the early 1980s gave collectors of that generation the opportunity to own these magnificent specimens and many collections today have “Roper” coins highlighting their collections. The collection also included coinage of the new nation and I will tell about that in a later story.


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