A Project of the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Numismatic Endowment
University of Notre Dame, Department of Special Collections
by Louis Jordan

Images Coordinated by
James C. Spilman and the Colonial Newsletter Foundation


This Project features discussions, descriptions and images of the coins and tokens used in Colonial and Confederation America based on examples in the Department of Special Collections at the University of Notre Dame. A companion project features Colonial and Confederation era paper currency (accessed through the Colonial Currency button found on the bottom of each page). Many of the items displayed here were donated from the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Collection with some items purchased through the Gore Numismatic Endowment. Several of the British coins as well as many of the counterfeit British and related North American coppers and some of the Spanish silver, are from a collection of some 2,300 coins anonymously donated to Notre Dame in 1887. Some items are from other donors as notes in the individual entries. In December of 1998 James C. Spilman and the Colonial Newsletter Foundation agreed to act as image coordinator. Over time we hope to add images scanned from photographs or slides, for all available varieties of colonial coinage (and currencies for the companion Colonial Currency site). Currently both the Colonial Newsletter Foundation and the Coloinial Coin Collectors Club have offered their photo archives.

The topics discussed on this page follow. One can either scroll down or click to a specific topic.


A few of the highlights in the collection are: a well preserved Oak Tree Shilling (Noe 1), a rather worn Higley copper, several Spanish gold ingots dated 1659, a 1776 Continental Currency coin, a Chalmer's Shilling, a 1784 counterfeit halfpence (Vlack 14-84A) and a 1792 half disme. Additionally, when viewing the larger size images it is especially enjoyable to examine details of the more intricate designs, as on the reverse of the Pitt token or the obverse of the Vermont landscape coppers.

Navigating the Site

The main table of contents gives basic categories starting with Coins produced in the colonies up to 1750," then moving through imported products made specifically for the colonies followed by foreign coins used in the colonies with later categories roughly in chronological order through the 1792 provisional issues. These basic categories are clickable and lead to 'section contents pages' which list specific coin types. By clicking on the first category "Money Substitites" you will be taken to the first section contents which lists Commodity money and Wampum. Also listed on that page is the second category "Coins produced in the colonies to 1750" which lists NE, Willow, Oak and Pine tree coins, Base Metal Tokens and the Massachusetts Pence of 1701, the Gloucester Shilling and Higley Coppers. Most section content pages have two categories, this page has three as it also also contains the third category "Coins imported into the colonies to 1750". For a quick listing of all coin types use the CLICK HERE line at the top of the listing or go to the first section contents page then use the arrow at the bottom of the page to go from one section contents to the next.

By clicking on a specific coin type in a section contents you will be taken to an introductory page relating a history of that coin type based on recent research. From either the top or bottom of the introductory page one can click to the following 'coin catalog pages' which contain fully illustrated entries for each of the of the coins in the collection. Thus, the section contents takes one to the introduction for the coin type selected which then leads to the coins. If you wish, you can move from one coin page to the next coin page (skipping the introductions), progressively viewing the entire collection by clicking the navigational arrows at the bottom of each coin page. On each coin page one can click up the introduction to that coin type from the top of the page or return to any of several pages listed on the navagation buttons at the bottom of each page.

Each coin in the collection is cataloged with basic comments. All coins are presented in full color and have been uniformly scanned at 100% image size, therefore the proportions of the coin images are relative to each other. Exact dimensions and weight are given in each entry. A small 100 dpi (dots per square inch) image of the obverse and reverse of each coin (slightly larger that life size) is displayed with the option of bringing up a larger 250 or 500 dpi image by clicking on the appropriate number to the left of the small image. Naturally, larger images will have better details, however larger images will also take longer to load (depending on your internet connection and modem speed this could be from 7 seconds to over a minute).

The database SEARCH option, found at the bottom of each page, allows you to search the entire site for items or terms you wish to find. Searches can be limited to the introductions only, the coins only or can be done on both. For example, you may search for all Machin's Mills products (including VT and other state coppers as well as imitation halfpence found in this catalog), all halfpence under 120 grains or all coins that depict Liberty. There is a basic or simple search function and an advanced or more specific search mode. Further details are give on the search form which can be accessed by clicking the search button at the bottom of each page.

Viewing Tips

For viewing tips and information on optimal computer settings - click here.

Coin Measurements

For an explanation of the process used to obtain the weight, diameter and reverse die rotation measurements - click here.

Principles of Inclusion

We have sought to be as inclusive as possible in describing the coinage found and used in the American colonies from the commodity money and indian wampum of the earliest settlers continuing through the provisional coinage minted at the request of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in 1792, just months before the opening of the first federal mint in Philadelphia. Coins and tokens traditionally collected as part of the Colonial American series have been included even when they are now considered to have not circulated in America in any significant quantity, as the "Voci populi" coppers or the Franklin Press Token, since many colonial collectors still look for these items in the series.

Similarly, we have included coins as the Elephant and Rhode Island Ship tokens, which were made in England for promotional or propaganda purposes about America, but for circulation elsewhere. We have also retained various tokens, as the Mott and several Washington tokens, now thought to date to the nineteenth century, but traditionally collected as part of the colonial series. Less traditionally, we have included some varieties of coins that are now part of the dialogue on "North American coppers," as the Blacksmith tokens, that have not generally been considered part of the Colonial series; we have also included some Birmingham products made for Bermuda, the Bahamas and Barbados to give a fuller picture of the topic. On the other hand, we have greatly reduced Breen's extensive listing of French coinage which Hodder has shown to have been overly ambitious.

Finally, we have added modern copies of Colonial coins (as those by Young, Robinson, Idler, Bolen and Dickeson), all of which are clearly marked as copies in their descriptions. In all cases the introductions will discuss the current state of research on each particular coin type clearly stating if that type is not known to have circulated in America. Items not discussed, as the Confederation patterns, appear in black in the section contents listings. They have been temporarily excluded because we have no example or reproduction to show. Within the next year I hope to include introductions for these items so the project will contain a continuous history of each coin type. Naturally, additional coins will be added to the site as the collection expands.

Basic References

Much information in the introductions is derived from Philip Mossman's excellent recent book, Money of the American Colonies and Confederation, which updates Crosby's pioneeringThe Coins of Early America, corrects Breen and emphasizes the importance of foreign coinage in the colonies (as well as showing the significance of coin weight). Those new to the field should realize Walter Breen's popular Encyclopedia has rather uncritical introductions on the history of colonial coins (based more on speculation than evidence) but contains useful information and good photographs on the attributes of individual coins (although one must be aware he merges several die varieties together under a single number). I have also relied on the American Numismatic Society's Coinage of the Americas Conferences which annually presents a variety of important current articles on a specific topic. Even more current is the ongoing research in the Colonial Newsletter, the single most fundamental resource for Colonial coin studies. My updates on Mossman are primarily derived from these two sources and recent auction catalogues. Of course I have cited books and articles by several individuals, most notably Michael Hodder and Eric Newman, who seem to have written on almost every aspect of colonial coinage! Several others including Richard Doty, John Kleeberg, James Spilman and Gary Trudgen have recently made important contributions to the field. These are only a few of the numerous numismatists spanning the alphabet from William Anton, Jr. through Robert Vlack and Jerry Zelinka cited in the bibliographies of the relevant sections.

Contributions of coins, images and/or information or updates are always welcome and appropriate credit will be noted in the text.


All texts, image scans, descriptions, organization and updating of the material are the responsibility of Louis Jordan. In December of 1998 James C. Spilman and the Colonial Newsletter Foundation agreed to act as image coordinator. We hope to add images scanned from photographs or slides, for all available varieties of colonial coinage (and currencies for the companion Colonial Currency site). Christian Dupont assisted with weighing and measuring several of the coins as well as supervising the technical functions performed by our student assistants. Andy Brenner and Bob Crocco created the database program and designed the search engine; Josh Hogan loaded the text into the database and worked on linking pages; Paul Krasicky continued with the page linking and did basic site management; John Roach created the navigational buttons at the bottom of each page and Jennifer Sullivan worked on graphic design and assisted with coin presentation, adding the copper background to several of the darker coins. The project was put on the web in November 1997 both as a database and as HTML pages. There will be regular additions and updates (to both the database and the HTML pages). Phil Mossman read a printout of the introductory sections from Commodity Money through the Atlee commentary as it appeared on September 10, 1998 and made several suggestions for improvements. His assistance has help to improve the consistency and accuracy of this presentation. In November 1998 Ken Berger made several perceptive suggestions and corrected some errors in the sections on: commodity money, wampum, all of the Spanish silver sections and on the Silver Rider and Rix Dollars. In April,1999 Matthew Ring redesigned and implemented the navigational buttons as they now appear.

Questions and Comments

Please direct your questions or comments to Special Collections - Click here for e-mail

telephone: (574) 631-0290
Fax Number: (219) 631-6772
E-mail: rarebook@nd.edu


Department of Special Collections
102 Hesburgh Library
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN  46556

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