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  • Washington the Great Copper

    Washington the Great - Ugly Head Copper of 1784: Introduction

    The very rare WASHINGTON THE GREAT copper is frequently referred to as the Ugly Head variety because of its crude obverse profile. Indeed, the token is usually thought to be a satirical piece. The obverse displays an unidentifiable bust right profile, all that can be distinguished is a large round head with an eyebrow and a nose and the neck. Around the rim is the legend WASHINGTON THE GREAT D. G. This is in imitation of the obverse legend on British coins, which includes the name of the ruler in Latin and then D.G. REX for DEI GRATIA REX (King by the Grace of God). The reverse displays the thirteen joined rings as is found on Continental Congress fractional currency from the emission of February 17, 1776, and on the rare CONTINENTAL CURRENCY coin of Elisha Gallaudet. The joined rings on the WASHINGTON THE GREAT token differ from the earlier versions in that the ring labeled C for Connecticut is between the rings for Rhode Island and New York rather than to the right of the ring for Massachusetts Bay. The thirteen rings design was also used on the FUGIO Coppers but the rings were not identified with individual states. In the center of the WASHINGTON THE GREAT reverse is a date on two lines 17 with 84 beneath. Fuld has verified four examples in copper and one in white metal, all of which are well worn

    It is thought this item is American in origin since it is so crude and because it uses the distinctly American symbol of the thirteen joined rings. Also, at least two of the examples appear to have been in America since before the Civil War and thus predate the flood of English coins that were imported in the later nineteenth century for the numismatic market. One of the four extant examples was discovered under a porch in Ijamsville, Maryland, in the late 1930s, while another example has been in the Smithsonian since before 1860. However, a third specimen has a Royal Navy Cross and Arrow countermark. Several copper electrotypes exist and there are many cast imitations of the one original white metal specimen. Fuld discusses a silver specimen, which he once owned, explaining it is not an original but rather it is a silver electrotype.


    See: Rulau and Fuld, Medallic Portraits of Washington, 2nd ed., p. 37; George Fuld, "Coinage Featuring George Washington,"in Coinage of the Confederation Period,  ed. by Philip L. Mossman, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 11, held at the American Numismatic Society, October 28, 1995, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1996, pp. 165-259 on pp. 168-169, listed as WA 1784.1.

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