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  • Immunis Columbia Copper Coins

    The Immunis Columbia Copper: Introduction

    The 1787 Immunis Columbia copper was long considered to be a pattern produced by James Atlee in New York to be presented to congress for consideration as a national coin. However, Michael Hodder has studied the emission sequence of this series and discovered the coins were minted from late 1788 through mid 1789 by Matthais Ogden in Rahway, New Jersey. This, of course, would make the Immunis Columbia a private issue, as they would date too late for the federal competition (the federal contract had been awarded to James Jarvis for the Fugio Cent by July 6, 1787).

    That the 1787 Immunis Columbia, of which over one hundred examples survive, was a regularly circulated coin is apparent from the well worn sample illustrated below. The obverse shows Liberty seated on a globe, in her right hand she holds a pole topped with a liberty cap while in her outstretched left hand she holds the scales of justice. The legend reads, IMMUNIS COLUMBIA with the date 1787 in exergue (Immunis is Latin meaning "free from tribute or tax" in this case taxation without representation which could be considered to be tribute, while Columbia refers to the land of Columbus, that is America, thus the phrase may be interpreted as, "America free from tribute"). The reverse of the coin depicts the American eagle with spread wings holding an olive branch in the talon to the left talon and arrows in the talon to the right. Above is the national motto, * E * PLURIBUS * UNUM * (One from many).

    The Liberty obverse had been used on several earlier unrelated patterns. There is a 1785 variety with the legend IMMUNE COLUMBIA that was combined with the Nova Constellatio design of the Eye of Providence as the reverse (about 20 examples are known, mostly in copper but a few in silver, the majority with pointed rays but a few with blunt rays). There is also a 1786 dated ;IMMUNIS COLUMBIA with a New Jersey copper reverse (Maris 3-C) of which 7 or 8 are known. Additionally there is a unique 1786 IMMUNIS COLUMBIA that was joined with a 1785 dated CONFEDERATIO reverse (this reverse was also combined with the INAMICA TYRANNIS obverse). Finally there is pattern that is probably related to the 1787 issue, namely a 1786 IMMUNIS COLUMBIA with the spread eagle reverse, as found on the 1787 issue, but having the branch and arrows transposed (two examples are known).

    The earliest production from the 1787 dated series of the Immunis Columbia were a few overstrikes made on New Jersey coppers. These first coins were larger (29-31 mm) and thinner than the subsequent coins in the series. Only four of these large planchet examples are known, three were overstruck on New Jersey Maris 26-S coppers, while Hoder states the fourth coin (the Garrett example), was too deeply struck to be able to confirm the undertype (although the Garrett catalog lists the undertype as a 1786 NJ copper). The regular issue was on a smaller (25-27 mm) and thicker planchet (made from copper cut from sheets rather than host coins). Unlike the large planchet examples, which show the full strike of the die including a bold date, the small planchet coins have a less full strike with the date partially or sometimes entirely missing. This issue was made to conform to the New Jersey weight specification of 150 grains and was privately minted by Ogden. The Immunis Columbia was more profitable for Ogden to mint than New Jersey coppers because he did not have to pay a surcharge to the state as he was required to do in his agreement for the minting of official state coppers.

    Apparently the dies for this coin clashed early, impressing the denticle rim design of the obverse onto the reverse legend at E * PL (in * E * PLURIBUS *UNUM *). This clash caused the reverse die to break from the inner edge of the eagle's beak to the base of the left wing. There was also a less severe break from the first U in UNUM to the base of the left wing where it joins the other break. Since these problems are only found on one of the four known large planchet coins (that is, the Garrett specimen, see The Garrett Collection,  vol. 1, lot 605) it is assumed the three known undamaged large planchet coins were earlier, predating the clash, with the Garrett example being produced later. At some point in the production of the smaller planchet variety the obverse die wore down leaving a poorly struck area around the scales. Small planchet coins displaying this problem are considered to be late strikes.


    See: Michael Hodder, "The 1787 "New York" Immunis Columbia: A Mystery Re-Ravelled," The Colonial Newsletter 31 (January 1991, serial no. 87) 1204-1235. Bowers and Ruddy Galleries, The Garrett Collection, Part 1 public auction held November 28-29, 1979 in New York City, Bowers and Ruddy Galleries, Los Angeles, CA, p.140, lots 604-605.

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    Section Contents Immunis Columbia Copper Coins

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