Important 1776 New Hampshire Copper Rarity to be offered by Stacks Bowers in Baltimore
Ex: Stickney, Ellsworth, Garrett The Guide Book Plate Coin
The history of this rare copper New Hampshire coinage is fairly well documented in the literature, especially in Sylvester S. Crosby’s Early Coins of America (1875), which reproduces the enabling legislation in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, March 13, 1775, and includes other valuable information relating to the origin of the first of the state copper coins.
The issue was intended “for the benefit of small change,” as Continental currency bills were “so large.” It was recommended that 108 of the coppers be equal in value from one Spanish milled dollar — thus setting the weight as about twice that of a British halfpenny and perhaps characterizing the New Hampshire copper as a penny (although no denomination was specified). Walter Moulton was empowered to coin as many as might amount to 100 pounds in weight, subject when made to the inspection and direction of the General Assembly before pieces were made for general circulation.
On June 28, 1776, the House of Representatives voted that the colony receive into the Treasury, in exchange for New Hampshire bills, “any quantity of copper coin, made in this colony, of the weight of five pennyweight and ten grains each, to the amount of any sum or sums not exceeding 1,000 pounds of lawful money.… [The] coppers shall have the following device: a pine tree with the words American Liberty on one side and a harp and the figure 1776 on the other side.” Although no doubt the proposal generated enthusiasm at the time, a coinage in quantity did not materialize. It can be theorized, however, that some from the early coinage were made for distribution to the Legislature. At the time the seat of government was in Exeter. In the same year, but slightly later on the calendar, Massachusetts contemplated a copper coinage, but, again, no quantity production ensued.
It was not until 1785 that state copper coinage became a reality with the introduction of Connecticut issues, followed by New Jersey in 1786 and Massachusetts in 1787. The Republic of Vermont, an independent entity (not a state until 1791), contracted for its own coppers which were made from 1785 to 1788.
First brought to light by Matthew A. Stickney, Esquire, the offered specimen of this rarity was illustrated ( on Heliotype plates) in Sylvester Crosby’s Early Coins of America on Plate VI, no. 3; prior to that it was illustrated in the lesser known work of 1859 by Dr. Montroville W. Dickeson, his American Numismatical Manual, at which time it was considered unique. Indeed, Stickney considered it to be among the three rarest coins in his collection.
As to Matthew Stickney, he is remembered as one of the greatest American numismatists of the 19th century. It was Stickney who visited the Mint Cabinet in 1843 and obtained an original (Class I) 1804-dated dollar in exchange for other coins, after which the variety became known to numismatists. The Class I and subsequent Class III (restrike) 1804-dated dollars went on to be called “The King of American Coins.” As to Dickeson, he was a medical doctor, entrepreneur, archeologist and numismatist. One of his specialties was excavating Indian mounds in the Midwest. He also owned rental properties including one rented by E.B. Mason, Jr. in Philadelphia for his coin store. Dickeson’s 1859 book, which came out in 1860 and 1865 editions slightly retitled as the American Numismatic Manual, was the first large and significant book published on American numismatics. Dickeson started from scratch, almost, and endeavored to give comprehensive information about colonial coins as well as federal issues, going into great detail. The volumes are illustrated with embossed colored plates in metallic ink.
As for William Moulton, at whose feet the production of the New Hampshire coppers was laid, little is factually known. There was a Moulton family of silversmiths in Newburyport, Massachusetts during the era, and our consignor uncovered information that one William Moulton III (1720-1793) of the Newburyport Moultons “Worked from 1762 to 1788 as a silversmith in Hempstead [now Hampstead], New Hampshire where several land purchases are recorded.” Present-day Hampstead is located 15 miles from Exeter, New Hampshire, the capital of New Hampshire during the era in question.
Of the few extant, one example is in the Smithsonian and another in the American Numismatic Society collection. Here is one of the most extensively pedigreed, most famous coins associated with the tradition of early American coinage. For an advanced cabinet, private or museum, this will be one of the greatest acquisitions of our time.
Numismatic Reflections by Q. David Bowers
What a pleasure it is to be able to offer this coin again! As I write these words my mind goes back to 1979 when I immersed myself at Evergreen House, the home of T. Harrison Garrett and John Work Garrett, in Baltimore, now owned by The Johns Hopkins University, and also in the university library. The vast Garrett Collection was at hand, and I went through over 4,000 invoices, letters, and other documents pertaining to the cabinet and its formation. Ensuing months were spent in other research, resulting in the publication that autumn of The History of United States Coinage as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection. The Johns Hopkins University Press considered publishing it, but estimated that only 1,000 copies would be sold over a period of 10 years. I was a bit more optimistic, and so we printed it on our own account, with a first run being 4,000 copies. These were gone in virtually an instant, and another printing was ordered. Then another. As I write these words there have been no printings for quite a few years, but perhaps 12,000 to 15,000 copies are out there in numismatic circulation.
The coinage of New Hampshire is at once rare and enigmatic. When I cataloged this very coin as lot 1323 of the Garrett Collection I noted: “The present coin is in Very Good grade and was once owned by Matthew A. Stickney, one of America’s pioneer collectors. It has a pleasing light brown surface with details as illustrated.”
Among the copper coinage of the states, examples of New Hampshire are far and away the rarest. The present coin has been off the market for over 30 years. Once this has sold, you may not have another opportunity to acquire on in your lifetime. The future is unknown, but what is known is that here indeed is one of the most important opportunities in early American numismatics to occur in a long time.
From the Matthew A. Stickney Collection; Colonel James W. Ellsworth Collection; John Work Garrett; and Bowers and Ruddy’s sale of the Garrett Collection, Part 3, October 1980, lot 1323. Lot tag and special custom presentation case included both of which are available to the winning bidder upon request, Stack’s Bowers at the close of the auction.
Available as Lot #4005. 1776 New Hampshire Copper. W-8395. VG-10 (PCGS).
Secure Holder. form the March 2012 Stacks Bowers Baltimore Rarities Night.
Starts March 22, 6:00 PM ET