Massachusetts Coppers From
The Sydney F. Martin Collection Part I
We are pleased to present the Sydney F. Martin collection of Massachusetts coppers. This offering represents one of the most complete and highest quality sets of the 1787-1788 Massachusetts half cents and cents by die variety to ever appear at auction. Syd took special pride in this collection, not only striving for completeness but working diligently to upgrade specimens of the most significant varieties whenever possible. A remarkable 46 out of 51 total varieties are present, 10 of the 11 half cents and 36 of the 40 cents. Of the five varieties not included, three are Rarity-8 (including two unique coins) and two are Rarity-7+. The average grade and quality of the collection is also extraordinary. Of the 49 total coins offered in this sale, 35 of them are in AU or UNC condition, and the average grade across the entire collection is an incredible AU-52. Several pieces are the finest known examples of their respective varieties and there are some truly world-class rarities present. These include the legendary Crosby Plate 1787 Transposed Arrows PCGS EF-45, the mind-boggling finest 1787 Ryder 4-J cent PCGS MS-64 BN, the beautiful finest known 1788 Ryder 9-M PCGS MS-64 BN, and the finest example of the significant 1788 Ryder 14-J variety, PCGS AU-58.
The Massachusetts copper coinage of 1787-1788 is distinct among the various state copper coinages of the 1780s for a few reasons. Massachusetts was the only state to set up their own official mint for the striking of the coins, as opposed to contracting out that work to private individuals. The Massachusetts mint, led by superintendent Joshua Witherle, enforced relatively strict quality control standards and the Massachusetts coppers are by far the best produced and on the highest quality planchets of the state coppers. They are also significant as the first American coins to be denominated in fractional parts of a dollar and to bear the words HALF CENT and CENT. The coins have an attractive and well executed design, the obverse depicting a Native American with bow and arrow and star above, as seen on the Massachusetts state seal. The reverse shows a heraldic eagle with shield, arrows, and olive branches, a motif that reappears on many federal United States coins.
This delightful series offers numismatists a number of ways to pursue collections of these historic coins. From a single example of the Massachusetts copper design, to collections by date, denomination, or Red Book variety, there are several approaches depending on one’s goals and preferences. Even a collection by die variety like the present offering is enjoyable and relatively manageable to pursue, though obviously near impossible to complete. Whether you are looking for a single high quality or well pedigreed example of the type, a trophy coin-caliber rarity, or are endeavoring to build the next world-class cabinet of Massachusetts coppers like Syd’s, there are many wonderful opportunities in the pages that follow.