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America's First Copper Coin: the Famous (1737) Higley Copper

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America's First Copper Coin: the Famous (1737) Higley Copper

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(1737) Higley Broad Axe copper. Friedus 3.2-C. Rarity-7-. VF Details, Damage (PCGS). Struck in Connecticut under rustic conditions, the Higley coppers were the very first copper coins produced in what would become the United States. They've been avidly collected even longer than the United States has been in existence, in fact, Pierre Eugene du Simitiere (1737-1784) sketched the Higleys that were in his cabinet as early as the Revolution. While any Higley is scarce and historic, nice ones are particularly dear. Most known specimens show surfaces associated with burial, not to mention axially misaligned dies that produce poorly struck devices, partial legends, and unobliterated natural flaws.

This example is far from perfect (though the price of perfection on a Higley is about a half million dollars, at present), but it actually stands tall among Higleys as a class or Broad Axes as a type. The enigmatic obverse legend VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE is nearly complete, with PLEASE not visible but the rest complete and bold. The deer is sharp, as is the III denomination below, suggestive of a denomination as threepence instead of the halfpenny denomination this copper's size clearly evokes. On the reverse, the legend is also nearly complete, with just the W of J CUT MY WAY THROUGH incomplete. The axe is well-defined, as is the diagonal and always-seen die crack left of T in THROUGH. The surfaces are an even dark steel, nearly charcoal, with fine but forgivable granularity. While the surfaces are not quite smooth, they are also not rough or corroded. There are a series of small, shallow nicks, concentrated at 9:00 on the obverse and behind the deer's head. A few are scattered across the reverse, and a single engraved I is present, lightly graved in early 18th century style, below HR of THROUGH.

The once-in-a-two-lifetimes offering of the Eric P. Newman colonials included five Higleys, two of which represented this Broad Axe type. The Newman example of this die variety, Friedus 3.2-C, was graded NGC VF-30 and could be described as attractive if lightly cleaned, unusually smooth for a Higley, and just a trifle sharper or more evenly struck than this one. It realized $199,750. A very well-worn but very pleasant Friedus 3.3-C, graded Good-4 by NGC, brought $54,343. These prices, despite the hype surrounding the Newman sale, were not entirely atypical or unexpected. In recent years, Higleys under $30,000 have been few and far between (and not too pretty, when found.) Even attractive examples that bring in excess of twice that much may not showcase the designs as well as this piece. For its balance of sharpness, overall quality, and eye appeal, this example represents a very wholesome balance: a Higley any advanced collector would be proud to own that is priced at a level below the stratosphere. While perhaps the purchaser of this piece won't approach Newman's fistful of Higleys, owning even one places any collection of pre-Federal coins into very heady company.

Additional Information

Grading Service PCGS GEN
Grade VF20
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Not Specified
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 28757424

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Description

Details

(1737) Higley Broad Axe copper. Friedus 3.2-C. Rarity-7-. VF Details, Damage (PCGS). Struck in Connecticut under rustic conditions, the Higley coppers were the very first copper coins produced in what would become the United States. They've been avidly collected even longer than the United States has been in existence, in fact, Pierre Eugene du Simitiere (1737-1784) sketched the Higleys that were in his cabinet as early as the Revolution. While any Higley is scarce and historic, nice ones are particularly dear. Most known specimens show surfaces associated with burial, not to mention axially misaligned dies that produce poorly struck devices, partial legends, and unobliterated natural flaws.

This example is far from perfect (though the price of perfection on a Higley is about a half million dollars, at present), but it actually stands tall among Higleys as a class or Broad Axes as a type. The enigmatic obverse legend VALUE ME AS YOU PLEASE is nearly complete, with PLEASE not visible but the rest complete and bold. The deer is sharp, as is the III denomination below, suggestive of a denomination as threepence instead of the halfpenny denomination this copper's size clearly evokes. On the reverse, the legend is also nearly complete, with just the W of J CUT MY WAY THROUGH incomplete. The axe is well-defined, as is the diagonal and always-seen die crack left of T in THROUGH. The surfaces are an even dark steel, nearly charcoal, with fine but forgivable granularity. While the surfaces are not quite smooth, they are also not rough or corroded. There are a series of small, shallow nicks, concentrated at 9:00 on the obverse and behind the deer's head. A few are scattered across the reverse, and a single engraved I is present, lightly graved in early 18th century style, below HR of THROUGH.

The once-in-a-two-lifetimes offering of the Eric P. Newman colonials included five Higleys, two of which represented this Broad Axe type. The Newman example of this die variety, Friedus 3.2-C, was graded NGC VF-30 and could be described as attractive if lightly cleaned, unusually smooth for a Higley, and just a trifle sharper or more evenly struck than this one. It realized $199,750. A very well-worn but very pleasant Friedus 3.3-C, graded Good-4 by NGC, brought $54,343. These prices, despite the hype surrounding the Newman sale, were not entirely atypical or unexpected. In recent years, Higleys under $30,000 have been few and far between (and not too pretty, when found.) Even attractive examples that bring in excess of twice that much may not showcase the designs as well as this piece. For its balance of sharpness, overall quality, and eye appeal, this example represents a very wholesome balance: a Higley any advanced collector would be proud to own that is priced at a level below the stratosphere. While perhaps the purchaser of this piece won't approach Newman's fistful of Higleys, owning even one places any collection of pre-Federal coins into very heady company.

Additional

Additional Information

Grading Service PCGS GEN
Grade VF20
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Not Specified
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 28757424

Related Blog Article(s)

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

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