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  • State Patterns for Mass and NH Coins

    State Patterns for Massachusetts and New Hampshire of 1776: Introduction

    The MA and NH patterns are frequently reproduced.

    If you believe you have an original example and need further information on value and authentification:

    click here for the Janus Head.
    click here for the Pine Tree Copper.
    click here for the WM New Hampshire varieties.


    Massachusetts had not minted its own coins since Hull and Saunderson's mint closed in 1682. In 1776 three unique copper pattern coins were designed but were never put into production. All three examples have been attributed to Paul Revere. One example, struck over a 1747 George II halfpenny, portrays a standing Indian on the obverse with the legend PROVINCE OF MASSA(CHUSETTS), while on the reverse is a seated figure of Liberty. The use of the word PROVINCE dates this piece to the earlier part of the year, prior to news of the July 4th Declaration of Independence. This coin is the size of a British halfpenny (27 mm in diameter) as it is an overstrike, however a hole has been drilled through it so there is no accurate original weight. It is now owned by the American Numismatic Society. The two other examples carry the legend STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS; and MASSACHUSETTS STATE dating them to sometime after the declaration. One of these coins, known as the "Janus head coin" portrays a three-faced figure on the obverse with the legend STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS while on the reverse is the seated Liberty with the legend GODDESS LIBERTY.; This is smaller than the "PROVINCE" halfpenny overstrike, as it is only 23mm in diameter and weighs only 81.2 grains or about the same as a British farthing (plated in the Garret sale). The other coin, now owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society, is reproduced on the following page in a copy from the Copley Coin Company. It has a Pine Tree on the obverse with the legend 1d L[awful] M[oney], on the reverse is a seated figure of Liberty with the legend LIBERTY AND VIRTUE. This coin, valued at a penny, is the largest of the three with a diameter of 31.8mm and a weight of 198 grains. The attribution to Revere is based on the close style of the lettering in all three examples to his known work, the knowledge that he encouraged the use of the seated liberty figure which is prominent in all three patterns, and the discovery of the "Janus" coin with the copperplates Revere designed for 1775-79 Massachusetts issues of paper currency.

    New Hampshire

    On March 13,1776 a joint committee of the New Hampshire legislature appointed to confer on the expediency of making copper coins entered their report. They stated William Moulton should be authorized to make copper coins at the current British standard weight, which was just over 153 grains. The report stated:

    The Committee humbly report that they find it expedient to make Copper Coin, for the Benefit of small Change, and as the Continental and other Bills are so large that William Moulton be impowered to make so many as may amount to 100lb w.t subject when made to the Inspection and Direction of the General Assembly, before Circulation. Also we recommend that 108 of said coppers be equal to one Spanish milld [milled] Dollar: That the said Coin be of pure Copper and equal in Wt to English halfpence, and bear such Device thereon as the Genl Assembly may approve.         (Crosby, p. 175)

    On June 28 the New Hampshire legislature passed an act stating a copper coin would be made in the colony having a pine tree and the motto AMERICAN LIBERTY on one side and a harp design with the date 1776 on the other. The copper was to weigh five pennyweight and ten grains, that is 130 grains. It would be distributed by the Treasury in quantities not exceeding £1000 in exchange for local paper currency at the rate of three coppers for two pence lawful money, which equaled the standard Massachusetts rate of 18 coppers per shilling. (the act, which was not clearly written, is found in Crosby, p. 176) Lawful money refers to the colony's paper currency, which was issued at the proclamation rate (6s to the Spanish American dollar). It has been suggested the harp design was probably based on the then current $7 continental currency bill which carried a Latin motto that can be translated as "The larger (harp strings) are harmonious with the small," -- a clear allusion to the union of the smaller and larger colonies.

    At lease five variations of the New Hampshire coin are known, two of which carry the date 1776 on the obverse and the initials W. M. on the reverse. Some of these pieces may be unique while others are found in only a few examples. Examples of the varieties are plated in Breen, the Garrett Collection Sale and the Norweb Collection sale as cited in the bibliography below. It should be noted several modern reproductions of these coins exist. The pieces with the W.M. initials are now thought to be of doubtful origin and have been removed from the current edition (51st 1998) of R.S. Yeoman, A Guide Book of United States Coins,p. 38. In 1996 Dan Freidus explained one variety had been fabricated by C. Wyllys Betts in the early 1860's. That variety has an obverse containing a tree with the legend AMERICAN LIBERTY and a reverse with a harp. Freidus has illustrated an example of the coin as well as the dies from which it was made. The authenticity of the other pieces have also been questioned; currently there is no consensus on which, if any, may be authentic. It is generally thought Moulton prepared some cast patterns but the coin never went into production.

    The Revolutionary War Era

    As the war against Britain expanded there was a redistribution of resources to support the war effort. Metal, of course, was in high demand. Coins were hoarded, as in the case of the Virginia halfpenny, and copper that was mined was designated for the war effort rather than for the minting of coins. After the Continental Dollar and the State patterns of 1776, no coins were minted in the colonies (except perhaps for a few counterfeits) until the end of the war in 1783. Throughout this period all coinage was difficult to come by. To meet the needs of the new nation during this period the Continental Congress and the states relied on numerous paper currency emissions, including some private small change issues.


    Breen, pp. 59-61; Maurice M. Gould, "New Hampshire Cent?" Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine  vol. 22, no. 11 (November 1956, whole no. 249) 1945-1946; The Garrett Collection, auction by Bowers and Ruddy, part 1, November 28-29, 1979, with the MA Janus head copper as lot 574, p. 132 and part 3, October 1-2, 1980, with two varieties of NH coppers as lots 1323-1324, p. 52; and The Norweb Collection: Part 1 Early American and U.S. Coins, a public auction sale of October 12 and 13, 1987 in New York City by Bowers and Merena Inc., Wolfboro, N.H.: Bowers and Merena, 1987, pp. 402-403 on the NH coppers with an introduction and three varieties as lots 1384-1386; Dan Freidus, "Identifying a Betts Copper," The C4 Newsletter, A quarterly publication of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club, vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring, 1996) 11-16 and front cover illustration.

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    Section Contents State Patterns for Mass and NH Coins

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