What Are Higley Coppers?

Higley Coppers: An excerpt from the Norweb Collection of Early American and U.S. Coins Catalog

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. Specimens above Fine are extremely rare, and Extremely Find is almost unheard of.

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