THE MIDDLE COLONIES SALE
1788 Connecticut Coppers • New York & Related Coinages • Immune Columbia, Confederatio & Related Issues
Maryland Coinages • Virginia & Related Coinages • Elephant Tokens, American Plantations Tokens, & c.
Welcome to the third chapter of our offering of the Syd Martin Collection. We’ve gathered together a seemingly disparate group of early American numismatic items and titled this “The Middle Colonies Sale.” The offerings, historically and economically, may be more connected than they would seem at first blush.
New York City has been the economic and cultural powerhouse of the Northeast for centuries (though the Philadelphia area, environs both Syd and I have called home, is clearly superior when it comes to professional sports). From the orbit of New York we have gathered numismatic items from three different centuries. The Dutch Lion dollars (and the half fraction) cover the first two centuries, a harkening to New York’s Dutch heritage that remained apparent in colonial pockets well into the 18th century. The important 1709 4 Lyon Dollars note serves as a bridge from that heritage to colonial New York, as does the enigmatic late 17th century New Yorke in America token, an English-language piece that was probably struck in the Low Countries.
As New York boomed after the departure of the English at the end of the American Revolution, its importance as a financial center took hold. The regulated gold coins Syd collected, led by a very important Portuguese half Joe regulated by Ephraim Brasher, show how central New York was to the import/export trade that brought immense wealth to the city. At the end of the 1780s, New York passed on making its own coins — though the patterns and related issues are all included here — but there was plenty of coin-making going on nearby. Up the Hudson, Capt. Thomas Machin was making counterfeits in Newburgh. And in nearby New Haven (and Machin’s Mills too!), 1788-dated Connecticuts would give Syd a series to pour his passion and expertise into. This is one of the finest and most complete offerings of 1788 Connecticut coppers ever auctioned, paired with some of the finest cataloging ever done on the series by our house expert Kevin Vinton.
From upstate New York come two issues that couldn’t be more different, though Syd found them each appealing in their own way. The Albany Church Pennies are simple: two varieties, overstruck on low weight halfpence, produced by the First Presbyterian Church in Albany after the Copper Panic of 1789. Syd got both varieties, and to increase the challenge, added contemporary communion tokens from two other Presbyterian churches, one in New York and the other in Charleston. The Castorland medals are very complex. Inspired by a colonization effort during the French Revolution, the die states tell the whole story of this coinage over the course of decades. Syd delved right in.
Other tokens from the New York area are also included, including a very impressive run of Talbot, Allum, and Lee cents by variety, several varieties of Mott tokens, and the ca. 1785 Bar copper, which was introduced to the New York area just after Revolution.
In the Chesapeake region, Maryland and Virginia were more alike than not economically. Tobacco made both colonies viable (unpaid enslaved labor to harvest that tobacco helped), and through the 18th century they saw similar coins, similar markets, and similar economic interests evolve. Virginia’s tobacco economy started in Jamestown, the short-lived settlement that served as the colony’s capital from the time of its founding in 1607. Just two years later, a group of colonists on their way to Jamestown from England were blown off course in a storm and landed on what became a new English colony: Bermuda. The 1616 Hogge Money issues were struck just a year after the Virginia Company ceded control of Bermuda to the newly founded Bermuda Company, and the two colonies continued a deep interrelation for most of the 17th century. The Sommer Islands pieces included here are American colonial classics, and Syd found important specimens to include in his cabinet.
In Maryland, Lord Baltimore’s coinage took hold in 1659 and the years that followed, and Syd’s collection is one of the best anyone has ever assembled. More than a century later, after St. Mary’s City yielded to Annapolis as the state capital, the Federal government took its seat in Annapolis’s State House for a time — the same time that silversmith John Chalmers got busy striking silver coins for local circulation. Syd’s Chalmers collection is led by the legendary Rings Shilling, one of the most important types in the entire canon of American numismatics.
The peculiarities of Virginia halfpence lent themselves well to Syd’s brand of expertise. Few people attribute them when they sell; Syd was happy to. Few people collect them by variety; Syd did, gathering 27 varieties and the very rare shilling. Among paper money issues, he also acquired the finest known 1775 pistareen note, an important type that recognized the vital role that Spanish mainland 2 reales (and their cut fractions) played in the Chesapeake economy.
Looking west to Kentucky, the Myddelton tokens have a lot in common with the Castorland medals: a colonization scheme that went nowhere, a foreign mint, and beautiful medal-like coins by legendary artists that have been avidly sought for centuries. Syd built out his Myddelton tokens with related mulings from the Copper Company of Upper Canada, as many collectors did before him.
The Carolinas can claim no native coinage, despite their ancient and interesting history in colonial times. But the Carolina Elephant tokens stand in nicely. Syd augmented his Carolina Elephants with nearly every possible permutation of the related London Elephant tokens, often in superb grade, and managed to acquire one of just three known New England Elephants, only two of which are in private hands.
The American Plantation tokens refer to the South in a general sense, but no one knows where they were actually intended to circulate. In 1688, when they were struck, the Carolinas extended to the border of Spanish settlements in Florida, and the unusual fractional Spanish denomination (1/24 real) makes clear they meant for somewhere close to the Spanish dominions. Syd assembled an advanced collection including all the notable varieties.
This sale is a real smorgasbord, covering a vast time period, a widespread geographical area, from advanced trophy rarities to hard-to-find obscurata. Syd didn’t shy away from challenges, and this sale is reflective of that ardor. It’s ended up being one of the finest arrays of early American coins ever sold in a single auction.
Enjoy the coins and the history. Syd did a lot of work to bring these coins together, knowing that ultimately they’d be appreciated by someone else someday.