Connecticut Coppers 1785-1788: Introduction

Connecticut coppers have the most complex minting history of all colonial issues. There were more that 355 die combinations, with at least 126 type varieties having 26 distinct bust styles made by at least six different mints. Yet, the basic design of the Connecticut Coppers never changed; all issues imitated the British halfpenny! The obverse depicted the bust of a man wearing a laurel wreath, the figure sometimes faced to the left (as George II) or to the right (as George III) and was either clad in mail armor or draped in a toga. The obverse legend was one of several forms of Latin abbreviations for the phrase "By the authority of Connecticut." The reverse depicted a seated personification of Liberty closely resembling the British Britannia with a legend consisting of an abbreviated form of "Independence and Liberty."

The Petition to Coin Coppers

The origin of the Connecticut mint can be traced back to October 18, 1785 when the partnership of Samuel Bishop, James Hillhouse, John Goodrich and Joseph Hopkins petitioned the state for the privilege of coining coppers. The petition (legally known as a memorial in Connecticut) explained the problems the partners hoped to address if their request was granted, namely:

...That there is a great & very prevalent scarcity of small Change in this State, in consequence whereof great inconveniences are severely felt by all orders of men in the Articles of Change, especially by the laborious Class...
The petition went on to explain the situation with lightweight counterfeit coppers:
...our late Enemies conscious of this, & unrestrained by any Law, are countirfeiting (sic) in vast abundance, that others even of our Countrymen,... have attempted the same nefarious Business, and are now Coining & stamping a Copper Coin much under the standard weight and Endevouring (sic) to Impose the same upon the Inhabitants of this State manifestly to the injury of the Credit of our Copper Currency and to the great Damage, in point of fraud and imposition, of the honest & unsuspicious Citizens of this State.
The petitioners then suggested the legislature should control the production of money:
...that the Right of Coining Copper is in this Honorable Legislature, that it is of high importance that it be not tolerated but by their permission, & under their superintendency, & that the State ought to derive some pecuniary advantage from such a toleration -         (all three quotes from Crosby, p. 207)
No doubt this was to the liking of the General Court. Further, the petitioners stated they wished to be granted a ten year coining privilege under which they would produce coins to the government's specifications as to weight and fineness. They also suggested the state establish a three person board of inspectors and offered to pay a five percent royalty to the state for the coining privilege.

Upon reading the petition the Connecticut legislature formed a committee to investigate the matter consisting of Colonel Wadsworth and Mr. Ingersol of the lower House, called the General Assembly, and Joseph Platt Cook of the upper House, called the Senate. The comments in the Senate, recording the decision to form the committee, mentioned the Senate would take up the matter again during the next legislative session, which was to begin on May 2nd. Clearly, the Senate thought the committee would need some time to investigate the situation before a recommendation was brought before the two chambers, known jointly as the General Court. However, it seems the partnership was well prepared and had the specifics of a bill already prepared, for within two days the committee presented coining legislation before the General Court. Following the required readings and some brief discussion, a few changes were made before the bill was passed by both houses. It was recorded into law on Thursday afternoon October 20, 1785.

The bill gave the four petitioners the right to coin up to £10,000 lawful money in coppers that were to weigh six pennyweight each (144 grains). The images on the coins were described as follows:

... a mans head on the one side with a Circumscription in the Words or Letters following (Viz) AVCTORI : CONNEC : and on the other side the Emblem of Liberty with an olive branch in her hand with a circumscription in the Words and Figures following (Viz) INDE : ET . LIB : 1785 : ...         (Crosby, p. 209)
The grant was not to exceed five years and every six months the petitioners were to give the state one-twentieth part of all coppers coined, that is a 5% royalty. A state inspection committee was formed to monitor production quotas and insure state requirement were being met. The expenses for the inspection committee members were to be paid by the coining partnership. Finally a paragraph was added that, "nothing in this Act shall be construed to make such Coppers a legal Tender in payment of Any Debt." The Senate had wanted to make the coppers legal tender in payments not exceeding three shillings but that clause was struck out by the Assembly. Thus, according to the law, the coppers were made as a convenience to facilitate commerce but no one was legally bound to accept them.

As the partnership had brought the counterfeiting problem to the attention of the legislature a few days later, on Monday afternoon October 24, 1785, a related law was passed making it illegal to coin coppers without the permission of the General Court.

The Company for Coining Coppers   (November 12, 1785 - June 1, 1787)

The four petitioners were not coiners looking for employment but rather, they were investors hoping to make a profit from the franchise. In order to obtain additional capital, as well as some expertise in coining, they soon took on additional partners. On November 12, 1785 Samuel Bishop, James Hillhouse, John Goodrich and Joseph Hopkins joined with Pierpont Edwards, Jonathan Ingersol, Elias Shipman and the well known silversmith and diemaker Abel Buell, as equal partners in a business called "The Company for Coining Coppers." Of all the partners only the diemaker Abel Buell was an actual participant in the daily operations of the enterprise. Buell was the most crucial position in the business, as few individuals had the skill to make dies, and without dies no coins could be produced. The other partners were investors and like investors in any business, they sold and purchased shares so the composition of the partnership kept shifting.

At first the eight partners each owned one eighth or 12.5% of the company. In February 1786 Ingersol sold half of is share (that is, one sixteenth or 6.25% interest in the company) to Goodrich and in March Hopkins also sold half of his share to Goodrich. Then in April Edwards and Shipman sold their entire 12.5% interest in the company to a new participant, James Jarvis. Jarvis also purchases Ingersol's remaining 6.25% of the company at that time. By April 1786 the ownership of the company was as follows: James Jarvis 31.25%, John Goodrich 25% , Samuel Bishop 12.5%, James Hillhouse 12.5%, Abel Buell 12.5% and Joseph Hopkins 6.25%

The Company for Coining Coppers continued production into the summer of 1786 when they were forced to suspend operations due to a lack of copper. On September 10, 1786 the partnership leased their coining privilege and equipment for a period of six weeks to a group of three individuals: Mark Leavenworth, Isaac Baldwin and William Leavenworth. Apparently these three had access to a supply of copper. It appears the coining equipment was wearing out for the agreement stipulated the three subcontractors were limited to six weeks of coining but, if time was lost due to equipment problems, they would be given up to an additional two weeks. The sub contracting period must have ended by November 1, 1786 for on that day the partners agreed to upgrade the coining equipment. With the need to make a further capital investment in the business there was a second wave of trading shares. On November 17th Goodrich sold half of his interest to the partnership of the two Leavenworths and Baldwin. Then in January 1787 Hopkins sold his interest in the firm to Goodrich. About six months later, around June 1, 1787 Goodrich and Bishop each sold Jarvis a 12.5% interest in the firm. At that time the Company for Coining Coppers was officially dissolved and was reorganized as James Jarvis and Company. The ownership of the company was as follows: James Jarvis 56.25%, James Hillhouse 12.5%, Abel Buell 12.5%, Mark and William Leavenworth with Isaac Baldwin 12.5% (about 4.16% each) and John Goodrich 6.25%.

The Coins of The Company for Coining Coppers

The Company for Coining Coppers set up their mint in New Haven, Connecticut in late 1785. Although we have accounts of the mint during the period of Jarvis and Company, we do not have any details on the first years of operation under the Company for Coining Coppers. Assuming the staff was not much different, there would have been a mintmaster and laborers who worked the press stamping out the coppers. However, it was the diemaker Abel Buell, who was the innovator in the partnership and the individual responsible for the design of the coins. Buell produced the dies for the 1785 dated Connecticut coppers using what is known as a "mailed bust facing right" which imitated the portrait on the George III halfpenny. The first issues were produced from hand cut dies such as 1785 Miller 2-A.1. However, Buell soon created a device punch for the obverse portrait and another device punch for the reverse figure of Liberty. As to when the device punches were first used is not known. Breen has suggested the first device punches were used to create the dies for 1785 Miller 3.1-L with hand engraving added to strengthen the images in the dies, but Mossman suggests this variety was still hand engraved. Breen believed there were at least three sets of device punches used in 1785, as examples he illustrated 1785 Miller 3.1-L for the first set, 6.4-I as being from the second set of device punches and 6.3-G.2 as an example from the third device punch set.

Starting in late 1785 and continuing through 1786 Buell created a new mailed bust that faced left rather than to the right. From that time all legally produced Connecticut coppers used the bust left, all later bust right coppers are considered to be illegal counterfeits. It is conjectured the shift to the bust left was done to distinguish the legal full weight Connecticut coppers from the large numbers of lightweight George III counterfeit British halfpence then in circulation (George III used a bust right portrait).

The technique Abel Buell used to produce the dies for these coins was revolutionary. He invented what is known as a complex or a common hub. This is essentially a thick coin shaped chunk of metal containing all the basic punch designs in a single unit. Previously diemakers had always created separate central image punches, letter punches, number punches and border design punches that were individually punched into a metal die (the border design punch then in use consisted of a small arc of 40° composed of sixteen beads that was repeatedly punched into the die to create a border around the entire die). With the common hub all these elements were combined into a single unit. The elements would be raised on the hub (a positive image) and then struck into a metal die so that the elements were incised (a negative image). When a planchet was struck between two dies the metal would be forced into the incised areas forming a raised (positive) image on the coin.

In the minting process the force needed to strike a coin was so great, the metal dies quickly wore down and often buckled or broke. Thus there was a constant need for additional dies. By using the common hub a diemaker could impress a complete obverse or reverse design into a new die in one step thereby saving time. There was no need to individually punch each letter and be continually concerned about spacing and alignment.

The problem with the complex or common hub was that Buell could not add small details. Apparently Buell did not have a machine that could produce the force needed to fully drive the more delicate details of an impression into a steel die. This meant Buell had to strengthen the images on each die with hand engraving. On every die all punctuation and related legend ornamental designs were added by hand. On the obverse dies some hand engraving was added to the leaves in the wreath and to the mailed armor. Also, because of a lack of sufficient force, the central image was often weak, especially in the area of the hair, requiring additional strengthening by hand. On the reverse dies the liberty cap was added by hand to the top of the pole, leaves were added to the olive branch and the border design of the shield was strengthened. According to Spilman a common hub was used to produce eighteen obverse dies, namely 1785 obverses: 7.1- 7.3 and 8 ; 1786 obverses 4.1, 4.2, 5.1 - 5.11, 5.13 and 5.14 and 1787 obverse 7 (obverse 7.2 of 1785 and 4.2 of 1786 represent two uses of the same die as do 5.3 of 1786 and 7 of 1787, these two dies, each used over a two year period, are called biennial dies). Another common hub was created to produce sixteen reverse dies, namely 1786 reverses: B.1, B.2, C, F, G, H.1, H.2, I, L, M, N, O.1, O.2, P, Q, R and S.

In 1787 Buell returned to the standard technique of creating dies with the use of separate device and letter punches. He probably returned to the traditional methods because the hand engraving was taking more time than expected and possibly because the quality of the detail on the dies, and therefore on the coins, was not as fine or as extensive it had been with the use of individual punches. Frank Steimle has noticed that on the reverse of Connecticut coppers the shield held by Liberty sometimes has a design consisting of three grapevines as are found in the Connecticut state arms. This feature is found on 1785 coppers but on the 1786 common hub coppers the shield was left blank. Interestingly, the shield design reappears on 1787 Connecticut coppers.

Near the end of 1786 we find another modification in the bust design. There are two obverse dies joined with a 1786 reverse in which the mail or armor worn by the figure has been replaced by a draped toga (Miller 6-K and 7-K). The reasons for this change, if any, are not known. Breen has suggested Buell first made the draped bust dies specifically for use during the period from September through October 1786 when the Company for Coining Coppers loaned there coining privilege and equipment to Mark Leavenworth, Isaac Baldwin and William Leavenworth. His theory that the design change was made to distinguish coppers produced by the sub contractors seems rather weak in that the draped bust coppers, along with a few mailed bust coppers, continued to be minted through 1787. It is just as likely that Buell started the draped bust design when he abandoned the common hub as a way to distinguish dies made by the different methods. Of course these theories are just speculation; the draped bust may have been added just for aesthetics. One interesting theory that has been alluded to but not fully developed is based on the findings of Mossman who discovered the draped bust coppers were heavier than previous issues. Thus is possible the equipment upgrade agreed to on November 1, 1786 may have allowed the company to produce a more uniform product closer to the authorized weight and that the draped bust was created to identify those better weight coins. For more on this theory see the final paragraph in this section on the weights of the Company's coppers. Whatever the reason for their appearance, the 1786 draped bust coppers were made quite late in the year and are very rare (Mossman was able to locate only 18 specimens).

While almost the entire 1786 production from the Company for Coining Coppers were mailed bust left coppers with only a very few draped bust left coppers, the coinage of 1787 was just the opposite; there were very few mailed bust examples but a plethora of draped bust varieties. In fact, there were only two mailed bust obverses used in 1787, found in four combinations, namely 1787 Miller 7-I, 8-N, 8-O and the very rare 8-a.1. Of these, Miller 7-I is the Hercules Head that had also been used in 1786 (1786 Miller obverse 5.3). Although the Hercules head is stylistically different from the other coppers assigned to the Company for Coining Coppers, the differences are not due to a different diemaker but rather were the result of a major recuting of the die, thus the variety is considered to be one of Buell's products. The other 1787 mailed bust obverse, Miller obverse 8, according to Breen, is an entirely hand engraved die. This obverse is known as the "Tallest or Largest Head" variety for that year. Thus, the only mailed bust dies combined with 1787 reverses were the reused biennial Hercules Head and a hand engraved die.

The large 1787 draped bust left series has been divided into two major categories. The first category are those coppers with large letters, which are attributed to the Company for Coining Coppers. The second major category, the small letter varieties, will be discussed below as they are attributed to Jarvis and Company. The reason the large letter varieties are attributed to The Company for Coining Coppers is that the two 1786 draped bust varieties (1786 Miller 6-K and 7-K) both have large letters, so the other large letter varieties are considered to be a continuation of that series. Additionally, the small letter varieties have letters and ornaments similar to the Fugio coppers minted by Jarvis and thus are attributed to him.

Several varieties of large letter 1787 draped bust coppers have been distinguished. There is a single obverse draped bust die that Breen states was hand engraved, that is, 1787 Miller obverse 9, found in three combinations (9-D, 9-E and 9 R). Obverse 9 is part of the group know as the "Triple Leaves" varieties. In the triple leaves coppers the laurel wreath worn by the obverse figure has an unusual leaf style in which there is a large central leaf with a smaller leaf to either side. Mossman has discovered the triple leaves varieties are divided into two groups based on weight. The first group averages 142.1 grains and are considered to be produced by the Company for Coining Coppers as the weights are similar to their other products (this includes 1787 Miller 2-B, 9-E, 10-E, 11.1-E ,11.2-K and 11.3-K). The remaining triple leaves varieties (1787 Miller 5-P, 9-D, 9-R, 12-Q, 14-H, 15-F, 15-R and 15-S) are much lighter averaging 117.6 grains each (see Mossman, p. 210 for further details as these figures and sample size differ slightly from the data in his article). It has been suggested these varieties were minted from dies produced by Abel Buell, but at a later date. Breen suggested they were minted by Abel's son Benjamin in 1788 before Benjamin sold the dies to Machin's Mills; Mossman has suggested it is possible they may have been minted at Machin's Mills.

In addition to the triple leaves varieties there are several other large letter 1787 draped bust varieties attributed to the Company for Coining Coppers. Among this extensive group Breen has included 1787 Miller obverse numbers 16.1, 16.2, 16.4, 16.5, 16.6, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.1, 29.2, 40, 41, 42, 46 and 47, which are found combined with various reverses (for a more complete listing see Breen's Encyclopedia  items 796-802). Edward Barnsley has shown the lettering in some of these varieties, as well as the lettering in other varieties of Connecticut coppers, has various mistakes as AUCTOPI for AUCTORI (on obverses 40, 41 and 42) or IIB for LIB (on reverse kk.1 as found in 26-kk.1). Breen has suggested the errors on some of the large letter 1787 draped bust coppers could be due to an assistant whom he postulated to be Abel Buell's son Benjamin. Barnsley, however, believed the errors were actually improvised substitutions added to the die when the proper letter punch was not available, as substituting a P for a missing R. The improvised letter was to be corrected with hand engraving but in the surviving error varieties this revision never occurred. Thus Barnsley suspects the errors were not due to an incorrect letter inadvertently added by an apprentice but rather they were due to either forgetfulness or to a lack of time to complete the improvisations.

Mossman has published an illuminating weight analysis of the coins produced by The Company for Coining Coppers. Using a sample of 294 mailed bust coppers of 1785 through 1786 attributed to the Company, he calculated an average weight of 135.3 grains, with a sample error of ± 11.2 grains. When considering the margin of error in the sample, a few of the heaviest examples may have just come within the authorized standard weight for the coppers, which was legislated at 144 grains. Interestingly, Mossman discovered later issue were heavier. For the 1787 draped bust left varieties Mossman calculated an average weight of 143.5 grains from a sample of 109 coins, with a margin of error of ± 11.6 grains. The rather rare 1786 draped bust varieties (18 specimens included, with a margin of error of ±15.1) fell into line with these results at an average weight of 148.3 as did the 1787 mailed bust varieties (27 specimens included, with a margin of error of ±11.8) at 143.8 grains.

It may be recalled from the previous section on the organization of the Company for Coining Coppers that on November 1, 1786 the partners decided to upgrade their equipment. It was around this time the 1786 draped bust coppers were produced, which were the first coins to more closely reflect the authorized weight. Mossman has suggested the company probably upgraded their roller, as the rolling out of copper sheets must be quite exact if one is to attain a standard planchet weight; he stated, "If the planchet stock were only 0.10 mm thinner, or the approximate thickness of a sheet of paper, then the coins produced would weigh 135.3 grains, or the average of the 1785 and 1786 Connecticut coppers." One could then postulate the draped bust varieties dated 1786 were the first coppers to be produced from upgraded equipment as they were the only 1786 coppers with the heavier weight. From this one might further speculate the draped bust was created to distinguish the newer heavier coppers from the lighter mailed bust coppers of 1785-1786. The very few mailed coppers produced in 1787 (which are the only mailed coppers of full weight) are rather rare and were probably produced in a limited quantity. Clearly both dies were special (one a reused die and the other a hand engraved die) and were not part of the regular die production process.

Jarvis and Company   (June 1, 1787 - Fall 1788)

As mentioned above, around June 1, 1787 John Goodrich and Samuel Bishop each sold James Jarvis 12.5% interest in the Company for Coining Coppers. At that time the Company was officially dissolved and was reorganized as James Jarvis and Company. The ownership of the company was as follows: James Jarvis 56.25%, James Hillhouse 12.5%, Abel Buell 12.5%, Mark and William Leavenworth with Isaac Baldwin 12.5% (about 4.16% each) and John Goodrich 6.25%. Hillhouse and Baldwin were the only original petitioners remaining and of the four partners taken on at the start of the Company for Coining Coppers, only Abel Buell remained.

Jarvis reorganized the company to start a new business. Back on November 1, 1786 Jarvis had submitted a proposal to Congress in competition for a contract to produce copper coins for the national government. Apparently Jarvis offered a $10,000 bribe to William Duer, the head of the Treasury Board, and felt assured of winning the contract. In fact, on January 16, 1787 the Board sent him 12,809 pounds of government copper, although contracts for the job were not signed until May 12, 1787! With the copper and contract in hand Jarvis and Company became the official mint for the federal "Fugio" coppers approved by the Continental Congress.

There are no records indicating if this reorganized company had the right to continue minting Connecticut Coppers. The original 1785 act had given the partners the right to produce up to £10,000 worth of coppers coins over a period "not exceeding five years." Clearly the five years was not up and it appears the limit on copper production had not been reached (at the going rate of 18 coppers to the shilling the limit of their production would be 3,600,000 coppers, while, as will be seen below in the inquest section, the reported production up to June 1, 1787 totaled about 1,400,000 coppers). As the limits had not been reached, the new company simply continued to produce Connecticut coppers. Some, as Breen, have called this an illegal mint. The issue of their legal right to coin Connecticut coppers is unclear, but the manner in which the coins were produced was clearly illegal. Jarvis went to Europe to find additional copper supplies for the Fugios, leaving his father in law, Samuel Broome, in charge of the mint. Broome took more than thirty tons of copper the national government had supplied for the Fugio issue and used it to make Connecticut coppers, which weighed less but had a higher value than the Fugio's. Also, in order to maximize his profits, Broome reduced the weight of the Connecticut coppers, and, based on the 1789 Connecticut state inquiry, it appears he neglected to pay any royalties to the state.

The Jarvis and Company mint probably closed in the fall of 1788. Their only delievery of Fugio cents was made on May 21, 1788, consisting of just 400,000 coins or about four tons out of the 300 tons of coppers they had been contracted to produce. In response to this poor showing Jarvis's federal contract was voided on September 16, 1788. Also, a federal congressional investigation led to a committee report on September 30, 1788 stating Jarvis had received a large quantity of federal copper but had only paid for a small portion and that "the Board of Treasury will take effectual measures to recover [the remainder] as soon as possible." At this point it seems Jarvis sold his mint equipment to Machin's Mills. By early 1789 both James Jarvis and Samuel Broome were on their way to Paris (just before the revolution!) while Abel Buell left for a few years in England. By that time Jarvis and Company was defunct.

The Connecticut Coppers of Jarvis and Company

Jarvis and Company had been formed to produce the federal Fugio cent, but they also continued the operations of the Company for Coining Coppers by producing draped bust left Connecticut coppers. Although the dies were still made by Abel Buell they can be distinguished from the coppers of the Company for Coining Coppers in several ways. Most noticeably Buell switched to a different set of letter punches that produced smaller letters in the die. These smaller letters were designed for the federal Fugio cent dies but were also used on all Connecticut dies produced during this period. Additionally, some small designs, specifically fleurons and cinquefoils, were added in the legend of these Connecticut coppers. Some Connecticut varieties had included stars or crosses, but these new designs had never previously appeared on Connecticut coppers, yet they were regularly found on Fugio coppers. Also, the Jarvis firm produced many draped bust coppers that were under the authorized weight.

Mossman has noticed a pattern in the Jarvis Connecticut coppers. He discovered their earliest products were within the authorized weight range but their coins soon moved downward from 145 grains to an average of 134.6 grains. The massive Jarvis production is divided into three groups. The earliest group represents 1787 small letter draped bust coppers with crosses in both the obverse and reverse legend areas. Using a sample of 73 specimens Mossman calculated an average weight of 145.0 grains, with a sample error of ± 12.7 grains. This weight is in line with the 144 grain authorized weight and was close to the weight of the draped bust coinage from the Company for Coining Coppers, which had been produced during the first half of the year. This cross series consists of eight obverse and nine reverse dies found in ten combinations (1787 Miller 17-g.3, 18-g.1, 19-g.4, 21-DD, 22-g.2, 24-g.3, 24 g.5, 24-FF, 38-GG and 45-CC).

The next group represents 1787 small letter draped bust coppers with fleurons in both the obverse and reverse legend areas. Using a sample of 134 specimens Mossman calculated an average weight of 142.0 grains, with a sample error of ± 11.6 grains. This group is just a few grains lighter than the cross group listed above. The fleuron series consists of nineteen obverse and eighteen reverse dies found in twenty four combinations (1787 Miller 34-k.3, 34-ff.1, 36-k.3, 36-l.1, 36-ff.2, 37.1-cc.1, 37.2-k.5, 37.3-i, 37.4-k.1, 37.4-RR, 37.5-e, 37.6-k.4, 37.7-h.2, 37.8-k.2, 37.8-HH, 37.9-e, 37.10-RR, 37.11-ff.2, 37.13-HH, 37.14-cc.2, 39.1-ff.2, 39.1-h.1, 39.2-ee and 56-RR.2).

The third and most prolific group consists of the remaining 135 varieties of 1787 small letter draped bust coppers, many of which have cinquefoils in the legend. Using a sample of 610 specimens Mossman calculated an average weight of 134.6 grains, with a sample error of ± 12.0 grains, or about 7.5 grains less that the fleuron group. It appears Broome was attempting to maximize his profits by producing as low a weight coin as he could without bringing attention to the mint. In this extensive series the most abundant type is Miller 33. This obverse die is found in 48 different varieties with 109 different combinations (there are 93 combinations in Miller and 16 additional discoveries listed in Rock).

It is assumed Jarvis and Company continued to produce Connecticut coppers until the mint closed. However we are not sure exactly when operations ceased nor are we sure which Connecticut varieties many have been produced at the New Haven mint in 1788. We know the mint made a delivery of Fugio cents by May of 1788 but faced serious problems because they had produced only a small fraction of the quantity stipulated in their federal contract. Thus we can be sure the mint was in operation at least until the summer of 1788. In addition to the Fugio cents, Walter Breen has attributed a group of 1788 draped busted coppers to Jarvis's New Haven mint. According to Breen's Encyclopedia the following combinations were produced in New Haven: 1788 Miller 14.1-L.2, 14.1-S, 14.2-A.2; 15.1-L.1, 15.2-P; 16.1-H, 16.2-O, 16.3-N, 16.4-A-2, 16.4-L.2, 16.5-H, 16.6-H, 16.7-P; 17-O and 17-Q. With the exception of 16.1-H and 16.3-N the others are all rather rare, many with no more than 5-15 examples extant. However, Mossman has discovered that all 1788 Connecticut coppers weigh considerably less than the 1787 Jarvis coppers. The 1788 draped bust left coppers average 118.7 grains, which is much closer to the weights of Machin's Mills products than the Jarvis coppers. Thus it is now thought all 1788 dated Connecticut copper derive from Machin's Mills. This implies if the New Haven mint continued to produce Connecticut coppers during the first half of 1788 they continued to used 1787 dated dies. This theory seems to be confirmed by the abundance of small letter 1787 Jarvis coppers. The number of dies and combinations of dies found for these varieties is more than double the dies and combinations used during the first six months of 1787 by the Company for Coining Coppers. If Jarvis continued to use the 1787 date in 1788 the reason for this practice may have been that 1787 Connecticut coppers were legally produced until about June 1st. All those made by Jarvis were unreported to the state and therefore illegal. If Jarvis had produced Connecticut coppers with the 1788 date the state legislature might investigate.

The State Inquest of 1789

In January of 1789 the Connecticut State Assembly appointed a committee consisting of Daniel Holbrook and James Wadsworth to investigate the coining franchise that was awarded in October of 1785. The two person committee met with Samuel Bishop, James Hillhouse, Mark Leavenworth and John Goodrich on April 7, 1789 at the house of John Smith Inholder. Based on the findings of these interviews the committee prepared a report that was presented to the Assembly during the May 1789 session. The report details the trading of company stock as described in the above sections. The report explained the majority of the shares in the Company for Coining Coppers were purchased by James Jarvis about the 1st of June 1787, it then listed the partners in the reorganized firm and stated that they had:

...carryed on the Coinage of Coppers until About the 1st day of June 1787 Since which Time they have ceased to Carry on said Business - and on Examination said Bishop, Hilhouse, Leavenworth and Goodrich declared that they had not put of [i.e. off] or into Circulation any of said Coppers Except they had been Inspected -         Crosby, pp. 222-223
The report went on to specify that 28,944 pounds in weight of copper had been inspected by the state and explained the Company still owed the state £8 3s in royalties based on the inspected pounds of copper. The report went on to specify:
We do not find that said Company have permited (sic) any Person to coin Coppers in the Works belonging to said Company except those Coppers herein before Mentioned -
They concluded with a mention of two small counterfeiting operations, those of Eli Leavenworth and Benjamin Buell, described below.

Soon thereafter, on June 20, 1789, the Assembly suspended the coining privilege. Persons interested in coining were to come forward at the next October session. However the question was never brought up as coining had became a federal prerogative with the adoption of the Constitution, which had come into effect on March 9, 1789.

From this inquest it is clear the state did not know of any coppers produced after June 1, 1787. After disposing of the minting equipment in September of 1788, due to problems with the federal government, James Jarvis and Samuel Broome planned a trip and left for Europe, hoping to set up a Paris subsidiary of Bolton's famous Soho mint of Birmingham, England. On January 21, 1789 Abel Buell deeded his house to Jarvis, gave his minting equipment to his son Benjamin and left for a few years to examine machinery in England. Thus they were out of reach of the state inquest. Based on the pounds of copper reported to the state, Breen has estimated The Company for Coining Coppers would have produced about 1,407,000 coppers at the authorized weight. Also, based on federal government figures for copper delivered to Jarvis but not used for the production of Fugio cents, Breen has estimated that Jarvis and Company produced about 3,000,000 to 3,500,000 Connecticut coppers, most being substantially lighter that authorized. Clearly these coppers were minted illegally in that they were not reported to the state and no royalty was paid. The investors withheld all information on these coppers during the inquest. The text of the inquest is technically correct as it stated: "We do not find that said Company have permited (sic) any Person to coin Coppers in the Works belonging to said Company except those Coppers herein before Mentioned." The key here is the phrase, "in the Works belonging to said Company" as the coppers were minted in the works belonging to Jarvis and Company. Apparently the state legislators were unclear as to the legal status of the mint partnership and the rights of the individual partners, for soon after the inquest report was submitted they took action and on June 20th suspended the coining privilege.

The New Haven Mint

It is generally assumed the same mint was used by the Company for Coining Coppers and by Jarvis and Company. Unfortunately there are no known records referring to the mint of the Company for Coining Coppers, but a few items have been traced that may refer to the Jarvis mint.

It is believed the Jarvis mint was located in a complex of buildings purchased by a Captain Daniel Green in 1795 from Samuel Broome, Jarvis's father in law and mintmaster. Fortunately in 1815 Captain Green had an architectural plan of the complex produced. This plan, which still survives, shows a storefront on Water Street referred to as the "Copper Store" and thought to be the site of the mint. Behind the store was the main house, formerly occupied by Broome. Unfortunately the house was demolished in 1880's, but a photograph of it remains. When the photograph was taken the "Copper Store" had already been torn down and the house faced onto the street. An article on the house was printed in The New Haven Sunday Register of July 17, 1781 which stated there were two large vaults at the east end of the cellar that the author of the article suspected had been used by smugglers (the article is reprinted in Bryant). Based on an eyewitness account discussed below, it appears Broome's business partner and brother in law, Jeremiah Platt, had a house on or in the vicinity of the property. On the 1815 architectural plan in addition to the copper store and the house there was a large garden, a separate kitchen, a barn, chaise house and a counting house, with another store, a dock and a wharf across the street. In the 1940's when Norman Bryant uncovered the architectural plan he also located a safe owned by the John E. Bassett Company of New Haven which, according to company tradition, had been purchased by Titus Street, the founder of the Bassett Company. Apparently it was thought the safe had previously been owned by the firm of Broome and Platt. If the tradition is true it is unclear if the safe had been used at the mint or was just from Broome and Platt's business partnership. Bryant included photographs of the Broome house and the safe as well as the architectural plan in his article.

In 1854 the numismatist Charles Ira Bushnell interviewed Henry Meigs on his recollections about the Connecticut mint. Meigs was born in New Haven on October 28, 1782 and lived in the city until 1789 when his family moved to Bermuda, not returning until 1794. As Damon Douglas has cautioned, we should not uncritically accept the recollections of a 72 year old man detailing experiences from when he was five and six years old. Clearly Meigs was trying to remember (and no doubt reconstruct) some of his earliest memories. His statement was recorded by Charles Bushnell in 1854 and published by Crosby. Crosby quotes Bushnell as follows:
Hon. Henry Meigs, late of this city, (New York,) deceased, informed me in Sept. 1854, that Connecticut coins were made in a building situated under the Southern Bluff, near the centre of the north shore of the harbor in New Haven, west of the Broome and Platt houses. Mr. Meigs lived at the time, between the latter residences, at a short distance from the mint house. He visited it frequently, and saw the press in operation. The building was a small frame house, and he thinks was painted red. Messrs. Broome and Platt, who had formerly been merchants in the city of New York, and were men of fortune, he thinks must have had a sub-contract for the manufacture of the State coinage, as Mr. Broome superintended the mint, and gave orders to the men, not more than three of whom were seen at work at one time. Both members of the firm would sometimes distribute some of the coins among the boys, among whom was my informant. Mr. Meigs said he saw the mint in operation in 1788, and it had been in operation some considerable time before that. The coins were struck by means of a powerful iron screw.... The firm of Broome and Platt was composed of Samuel Broome and Jeremiah Platt.

As Meigs lived in the area, between Broome and Platt, he probably did know the men and no doubt frequently visited the mint. Certainly he is able to confirm the location and Broome's position. However, details on the number of workers may not be precise. Additionally, it seems quite unlikely that a young boy would have been able to distinguish if the coins being minted were the federal Fugio cents or Connecticut coppers.

Bushnell also related to Crosby another piece of information he had been told by a different unnamed source. He stated:

I have understood from another source that a building at Westville, at the foot of West Rock, about two miles inland from New Haven, was likewise used for the coinage of Connecticut coppers. At the time the old building was last seen, it contained an old coining press, and the remnants of copper castings...         (Crosby, pp. 210-211)
Some fifty years ago Damon Douglas took this to be the site of the mint for the Company for Coining Coppers, but most numismatists suspect this anonymous unconfirmed source may refer to a counterfeit operation, if it was a mint site at all. It could have been an off site location owned by the mint, used for the refining of copper ore and possibly even the rolling of copper sheets and production of blank planchets, tasks which Meigs did not include in his description of the mint house operations.

The Production of Counterfeit Connecticut Coppers

There were several varieties of lightweight counterfeit Connecticut coppers. For easy reference I have grouped counterfeits based on the date on the coin, and where possible, by issuing location. As counterfeits are meant to be deceptive it should be remembered the date does not necessarily reflect the year of minting, examples may be backdated. Thus even though the coins are dealt with in what may be considered a chronological order this does not necessarily reflect an emission sequence.

Of the 1785 dated coppers it is generally thought the "African head" varieties have a different style and were produced from different punches than those used by Abel Buell. Whether they were the work of an apprentice or the produce of an illegal mint is unknown. The "African head" is found in two varieties, 1785 Miller 4.1-F.4 which is rather common and the 4.2-F.6 for which only two examples are known. Interestingly, the weight of these coins is 133-140 grains, which is much heavier than most counterfeits. It has also been suggested that 1785 Miller 1-E and 6.5-M may be counterfeit issues.

From the 1786 Connecticuts there is a group of 1786 mailed bust right counterfeit coppers previously attributed to James Atlee because some exhibit the use of a broken A punch. Since the theory of a single broken A punch has been shown to be incorrect, the attribution of these coins is now questioned (see the James Atlee section). This now unattributed group, consists of 1786 Miller 1-A, 1.1-A, 2.1-A, 2.2-D.2, 2.1-D.3 and 3-D. Lorenzo has studied these coins and concluded that only the first two varieties (1-A and 1.1-A) have a "standard" broken A, so that the left ascender does not reach to the top of the letter. Miller 2.1-A has a very different A, broken at the left foot of the letter (our example does not have that break). The other varieties do not have the broken A but have been thought to be related. Clearly this group, if it is a single group, needs further study. All but the 3-D variety are far below the authorized weight, usually in the range of 90-120 grains and are certainly counterfeits. Notable in this group is 1786 Miller 3-D (called the "tallest head" for the year), which is thought to be the variety William Coley of New York City used as a model when creating his 1786 Vermont "Baby Head" copper (Bressett 7-F, RR9). Miller 3-D is also the one exception to the weight range as it is often found in the 120-135 grains range with reported weights from 106-173 grains!

For 1786 there is also a group four very rare and quite crude mailed bust right Connecticut coppers. The coins are 1786 Miller 2.3-T, 2.4-U, 2.5-V and 2.6-BRI. All have reverses with the British arms on the shield. Also, while the first three have the usual Connecticut legend, the fourth variety has BRITA   NNIA. This Britannia reverse is also found joined with the imitation George III halfpenny obverse, Vlack 16. Currently one example of 2.3-T and 2.6-BRI are known, Rock says both are in a St. Louis Collection (clearly this is the Eric Newman collection) and one example of 2.4-U is known, in the Barnsley/Colonial Newsletter Reference Collection. The whereabouts of the only reported 2.5-V example is currently unknown. According to Rock reverses T, U and V may be identical but because of the poor condition of the specimens photographic overlays will need to be made before an answer can be determined. For now each has been designated as a different reverse with its own letter. The location of the mint (or mints) responsible for these counterfeits is unknown. In Breen's Encyclopedia 2.6-BRI is mislabelled as 2.4-U. Also, Robert Vlack, in his second plate of "Early English Counterfeit Halfpence Struck in America" lists the Britannia reverse as 86A, thus Vlack 16-86A and 1786 Miller 2.6-BRI share the same reverse but use two different systems of notation. The Vlack 16-86A is discussed but not illustrated in Peters (for Peters and Vlack see the Imitation Halfpence section in this site).

In 1787 virtually all legally produced Connecticut coppers were draped bust left varieties. However, there are several groups of lightweight counterfeit 1787 mailed bust Connecticut coppers, some have the bust facing left while others use a bust facing right. One location for these illegal Connecticut coppers was the mint of Walter Mould in Morristown, New Jersey. In addition to making legal New Jersey coppers it appears Mould was responsible for several varieties of illegal Connecticut coppers including the mailed bust right variety, 1787 Miller 1.3-L, and three mailed bust left varieties, namely: the "Horned Bust" (1787 Miller 4-L) and the two "Laughing Head" varieties (1787 Miller 6.2-M and 6.2-M) (examples below). On all four varieties there is a star in the center of the mailed armor which has been taken to be Mould's mintmark. All four varieties have the identical N, C and A punches as were used on Morristown New Jersey coppers.

Other illegal 1787 mailed bust right Connecticut coppers have been attributed to John Bailey of New York City. It is interesting to note that Bailey did some subcontracting work for Walter Mould, producing the "running fox" New Jersey coppers. Among the illegal Connecticut coppers attributed to Bailey are the mailed bust right, first and second "Mutton Heads," 1787 Miller 1.2-mm and 1.2-C (example of 1.2-CC below). The attribution is based on filmprint studies by Gary Trudgen linking the Muttonhead letters to those on the Nova Eborac issue of Bailey.

Another location of counterfeit 1787 Connecticut coppers was the Machin's Mills mint in Newburgh, New York. Breen has assigned the following varieties to Machin's Mills: mailed bust right 1787 Miller 1.1-A, 1.1-VV, 1.4-WW, 52-G.1 and 52 G.2; also the mailed bust left 1787 3-G.1 and 13-D; and 1787 draped bust left 34.2-F, 37.6-B and 50-F. Lorenzo had noted that 1.1-A and 1.4-WW exhibit the broken A. Of these varieties 1787 Miller 1.4-WW, of which only two examples are known, is noteworthy as the only Connecticut copper where the seated Liberty faces to the right (well illustrated in the Norweb catalog, part 2, lot 2500, p. 259). The only similar right facing seated Liberty is on the Nova Eborac variety, listed by Crosby as reverse A.

As discussed above, Machin's Mills is thought to be responsible for most of the 1788 Connecticut coppers. It is assumed Machin's Mills acquired the mining equipment of Jarvis and Company as well as the Connecticut dies of Abel Buell. From the April 7, 1789 report on the Connecticut state mint we learn that when Abel Buell left for England in early 1789 he gave some dies to his son Benjamin who then produced some coins. The report stated:

We further find that Abel Bewel has Gone to Europe that previous to his Departure he gave his Son Benjamin Bewel Liberty to coin Coppers Which Bussiness (sic) he is now pursuing and has Just began to Stamp them[.]         (Crosby, p. 223)
Breen has assumed the dies used were from the 1787 mailed bust left, triple leaves varieties, which Benjamin then sold to Machin's Mills. Varieties attributed to Benjamin Buell are: mailed bust left 1787 Miller 2-B, 5-P, 9-D, 9-E, 9-R, 10-E, 11.1-E, 11.2-K, 11.3-K, 12-Q, 14 H, 15-F 15-R and 15-S (all are rare except 2-B, 11.1-E and 11.2 K). Based on the average weight of these coins, which is about 117.6 grains, Mossman suspects they may have been produced at Machin's Mills rather than by Buell. Breen felt Buell used the dies then sold them to Machin's Mills. It is generally agreed the triple leaves obverse dies were used with some reverse dies made at Machin's Mills to create several 1788 varieties. Other 1788 Machin Mills Connecticut coppers were produced with either mailed bust left observes or draped bust right obverses.

The April 7, 1789 report on the Company for Coining Coppers also mentioned that in the fall of 1788 a Major Eli Leavenworth produced some copper blanks which he then shipped to New York where he had them stamped with various impressions including "Some few of them With an Impression Similar to the Impresion (sic) of the Coppers Coined by the Aforementioned Company." The "Aforementioned Company" was the Company for Coining Coppers. It is assumed Eli was a relative of Mark and William Leavenworth, who became partners in the coining company in November of 1786. If these coins were actual counterfeit Connecticut coppers or simply had a related style is not known.

Connecticut Die Variety Charts for 1785 and 1788

Through the Al Hoch Photofiles at The Colonial Newsletter Foundation, Jim Spilman has provided scans of charts for Connecticut obverses and reverses for 1785 and 1788. The charts use the Miller numbers designated in the older superscript style, thus for 1785 Miller 12.1 the designation is 121.

The charts are presented as clickable 125 dpi jpg images. Because of their size (about 500K as compressed JPEG images) half size charts are also available.

Full chart of CT 1785 Obverses   1 - 8. The top half of chart containing obverses 1 - 4.3 and the bottom half of chart containing obverses 4.4 - 8

Full chart of CT 1785 Reverses   A.1 - M. The top half of chart containing reverses A.1 - F.2 and the bottom half of chart containing reverses F.3 - M

Full chart of CT 1788 Obverses   1 - 17. The top half of chart containing obverses 1 - 11 and the bottom half of chart containing obverses 12.1 - 17

Full chart of CT 1788 Reverses   A.1 - S. The top half of chart containing reverses A.1 - I and the bottom half of chart containing reverses K - S


Connecticut varieties are described in: Henry Miller, The State Coinage of Connecticut New York: ANS, 1920. Updated by Jeff Rock, "Corrigenda Millerensis Revisited: A Connecticut Coppers Update, 1785 1788,"The Colonial Newsletter  31 (May 1991, serial no. 88) 1242-1257, additions continue, in 1994 Rock published with Ken Mott, "A New Variety of Connecticut Copper Discovered: Miller 33.49-Z.7" The Colonial Newsletter 34 (November 1994, serial no. 98) 1452-1453 and no doubt others will follow. Additional information with selections of photographs are found in Breen and Mossman. Also see Breen's article "Legal and Illegal Connecticut Mints 1785-1789" in Studies on Money in Early America ed. By Eric Newman and Richard Doty, NY: ANS, 1976, pp. 105-133; Norman Bryant, "Connecticut Coppers Mints -- The Water Street Mint in New Haven," The Colonial Newsletter 16 (November 1977, serial no. 50) 613-621 (this is a reprint of his article from the April 1946 issue of the Numismatic Review.); Philip L. Mossman, "Weight Analysis of Abel Buell's Connecticut Coppers," in  Money of Pre-Federal America,   edited by John M. Kleeberg, Coinage of the Americas Conference, held at the American Numismatic Society May 4, 1991, Proceedings no. 7, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1992, pp. 103-126; J. C. Spilman, "Abel Buell: Our American Genius, " The Colonial Newsletter 11 (May 1972, serial no. 34) 352-355; J. C. Spilman, "The Incredible Diesinking of Abel Buell, The Colonial Newsletter 13 (February 1974, serial no. 39) 423-434; Edward R. Barnsley, "The Bizarre Lettering of Connecticut Coppers, " The Colonial Newsletter 11 (May 1972, serial no. 34) 356-367; Edward R. Barnsley, "The Interlocked Dies of Connecticut Coppers," The Colonial Newsletter  13 (September 1974, serial no. 41) 449-451; and Frank Steimle, "Shield Designs on Connecticut Coppers," The Colonial Newsletter vol. 36, no. 1 (January 1996, serial no. 101) 1604-1606. On James Jarvis see: Damon G. Douglas, "James Jarvis: Merchant, privateer, Coinage Contractor; Extracts from the Manuscript, "James Jarvis and the Fugio Coppers" by Damon G. Douglas," edited by James Spilman, The Colonial Newsletter  vol. 8, no. 2 (July 1969, serial no. 26) 261-265;  vol. 8, no. 3 (September 1969, serial no. 27) 273-278;  vol. 8, no. 4 (December 1969, serial no. 28) 285-292. The best auction catalog for all state coppers and especially Connecticut coppers is: The Frederick B. Taylor Collection and Other Properties by Michael Hodder, held in New York March 26-28, 1987, by Bowers and Merena of Wolfboro, N.H. (session three from March 27, 1987, containing lots 2001-2772 includes the Connecticut state coppers). This catalog contains descriptions and illustrations of 306 varieties of Connecticut coppers. For the Miller 1787 1.4-WW see, The Norweb Collection: Part II by Michael Hodder, held in New York March 24-25, 1988, by Bowers and Merena of Wolfboro, N.H.

^ ->
Section Contents Connecticut Copper Coins

For viewing tips and information on optimal computer settings click here.
For our copyright statement click here.

For questions or comments contact Special Collections by: E-Mail, telephone: (574) 631-0290 / Department of Special Collections, 102 Hesburgh Library, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556