Friday, May 27, 2016

Vermont Coppers: A Quick History

(I wanted to share something I have a personal tie to. I live in Minnesota now, but I grew up in Vermont. So, let's talk copper...)

The history of Vermont copper coins.

Vermont coppers were copper coins issued by the Vermont Republic. They were first struck in 1785 and continued to be minted until Vermont's admission to the United States in 1791.


On June 10, 1785, the House of Representatives of the Freemen of Vermont met to select a committee of three to consider a request from Reuben Harmon, Jr. of Rupert to mint copper coins for the new entity Vermont. Though Vermont's legislative branch at this period was unicameral, the Governor's Council, a part of the executive branch, acted as a sort of upper house. The Governor's Council appointed one of its members to join the committee studying the proposal. On June 15, 1785, the committee presented to the House of Representatives of the Freemen of Vermont their recommendation that Vermont grant Harmon "...the exclusive right of coining Copper within this State for the term of two years..." The approved language required the coins to have a minimum weight of one-third of a troy ounce (160 grains). The House approved the measure and sent the recommendation to the Governor's Council which concurred. On June 17, 1785, Harmon posted a required bond and began establishing his mint situated beside Hagar's Brook in Rupert.

Design and motto

1785 and 1786 landscape design

Vermont Penny

Vermont Penny

The same committee was retained to select a motto for the coins, and to oversee design. The design of the obverse, on the initial 1785 and 1786 coins, featured a sun rising above the Green Mountains and a plow in the foreground encircled by the inscription VERMONTS. RES. PUBLICA., which can be translated as the republic, or commonwealth, of Vermont. The design of the reverse of the coin is an appropriation of an earlier 1783 American coin called the Nova Constellatio (new constellation) design. It features a large single star emanating rays, with an eye within, it is surrounded by a wreath of 13 smaller stars, and they are encircled by the motto STELLA QUARTA DECIMA which translates as the 14th star. Subsequent issues altered the inscription on the obverse, variously using VERMONTIS. RES. PUBLICA. and VERMONTENSIUM. RES. PUBLICA.

1787 and 1788 bust design

Vermont Penny

Vermont Penny

In October 1785, with new Vermont coppers in circulation, Harmon sought an extension of his exclusive two-year contract. An act, possibly written with Harmon, himself a former member of the House, extended the agreement eight years from July 1, 1787, and described a dramatically different design. The obverse was to bear a bust, encircled with a new motto reading AUCTORITATE VERMONTENSIUM. which translates as by authority of Vermont. The reverse of the coin depicted a seated woman, and the inscription INDE ET LIB an abbreviation of independence and liberty. Sixteen variations of dies for the second coins were made. The new design closely resembled the British halfpenny then in circulation in the American colonies. On the British coin was a bust of George III encircled by the inscription GEORGIVS. III. REX. The reverse bore a seated female embodiment of Britain called Britannia. A common explanation of the redesign of Vermont's coins, so close to the British half-pence model, has been made to make their circulation and exchange easier beyond Vermont's boundaries.


While the 1785 Act of the Vermont House describes the design of the bust and seated female figure design in detail, no notes of the period exist on the meaning of either the mottoes or imagery of Vermont's copper coinage. Twentieth century numismatists Kenneth Bressett, Tony Carlotto and Hillyer Ryder offer nearly identical explanations of the imagery and mottoes. The depiction of the sun rising above the Green Mountains is to indicate peace, and possibly the approval of Divine Providence. The plow may simply represent agriculture, a primary activity and industry of the young state, but might also allude to the story of Cincinnatus the ancient Roman citizen-farmer who left his plow in the field to serve Rome as consul, fight the encroachment of aristocracy, and later return to his field. The large single star, with the eye, on the 1785 and 1786 issues, is nearly identical in design to a widely available typographic device, or dingbat, of the time called the Eye of Providence, a Deist and Masonic image suggestive of an all-seeing God. Here however the star may simply be Vermont itself, centered among the 13 stars likely used to suggest the existing 13 American states. The addition of the motto STELLA QUARTA DECIMA, the 14th star, is cited as a hope for eventual statehood. The seated female on the reverse side of the second design is modeled on the Britannia figure then on British half-penny. A similar seated female is found on the reverse of the coat of arms of Vermont, and is described variously as Agriculture, or Ceres (Roman goddess of agriculture).

Photo courtesy of Coin HELP!
Information from Wikipedia - Used under CC BY-SA license

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The First Chief Engraver of the US Mint: Robert Scot

Robert Scot was the first official Chief Engraver of the US Mint

Robert Scot (October 2, 1745 – November 3, 1823) was Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1793 until his death in 1823. Scot designed the popular Flowing Hair dollar coinage along with the Liberty Cap half cent. Scot is perhaps best known for his design, the Draped Bust, which was used on many silver and copper coins. Robert Scot was the most prolific engraver of early American patriotic iconography, with symbols and images depicting rebellion, unity, victory, and liberty throughout his career in America.

Draped Bust Silver Dollar

Early life

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Grading the Graders

The Pros and Cons of the Top Three TPG’s

Let’s take a look at the top three TPG’s, or “Third Party Graders,” and examine the pros and cons. PCGS, NGC, and ANACS are all reputable grading services and by far the best in the business. Although my graded coin collection consists of slabs from all three companies, ANACS is far and away my favorite.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Armenian Numismatic and Antiquities Society

I came upon this group while searching for contributors. I've corresponded with Dr. Chuck Hajinian, very friendly guy. They allowed me to share the following article.
September 2, 2015
Armenian Numismatic and Antiquities Society Launched in Chicago to Spotlight Ancient Artifacts
CHICAGO, IL–A new organization, the Armenian Numismatics and Antiquities Society (ANAS) was launched in August on the sidelines of the American Numismatics Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Chicago. This first gathering of the society included a public talk by renowned numismatic experts Dr. Levon Saryan and Frank Kovacs.
The fledgling organization has a website and plans to publish a quarterly journal. Dr. Saryan is vice president and journal editor and Dr. Chuck Hajinian is president of the group.
The goal of ANAS is to unite Armenians worldwide in their quest for knowledge about Armenian coins and related items and to provide a forum for them to share their collections, post items for sale, and exchange ideas. The website is intended to be a place where anyone can find interesting items relating to Armenian history. In short, a “virtual museum” available to anyone in the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Coins You Can Find - Indian Head Cent - Later Years and Beyond

Indian Head Cent Production Saw Big Ups and Downs over Last Three Decades

1909-S Indian Head Penny

In the postwar years, the heavy production of cents was scaled back, as hoarding ceased and some of the slack was taken up by other base-metal coins. Nevertheless, the various issues of small coins, at that time not redeemed by the government, caused another overabundance in commerce. The glut was not completely broken until the Act of March 3, 1871 allowed redemption of cents and other minor coins in lots of $20 or more. Pursuant to this act, over thirty million copper-nickel cents, of both the Indian Head and Flying Eagle designs, were redeemed. The Mint melted these for re-coinage.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Coins You Can Find - Indian Head Cent - Civil War Years

During the Civil War cents were snatched up as quickly as they could be minted.

1863 Indian Head Penny

The surplus of cents was relieved in 1861 by the economic chaos fueled by the American Civil War. At the end of that year, the banks stopped paying out gold, which thereafter commanded a premium over paper money. These greenbacks, beginning in the following year, were issued in large quantities by the federal government. Silver vanished from commerce by June 1862, as its price rose, leaving the cent the sole federal coin that had not entirely vanished from commerce through hoarding. Back when there had been a glut of cents, merchants had quietly tucked them away in bulk. One story tells of a New York City floor that collapsed beneath the weight of stored pennies. But even these caches didn't last forever, and soon NYC was running dry of cents.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Coins You Can Find - Indian Head Cent - Inception

The Indian Head Cent made is debut, saturating U.S. cities with copper coins.

1859 Indian Head Penny

Production of the Indian Head cent began in 1859. The new pennies differed slightly from the 1858 pattern coin which had the laurel leaves in the reverse wreath in bunches of five leaves. The 1859 cent had them in bunches of six. Cents dated 1858 with the adopted reverse (with six-leaf bunches) are known, were most likely struck in 1859, and are extremely rare.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Coins You Can Find - Indian Head Cent - Design

The new penny's design draws cheers and jeers.

Indian Head Penny

Longacre advocated his Indian Head design in an August 21, 1858, letter to Snowden:

"From the copper shores of Lake Superior, to the silver mountains of Potosi from the Ojibwa to the Aramanian, the feathered tiara is as characteristic of the primitive races of our hemisphere, as the turban is of the Asiatic. Nor is there anything in its decorative character, repulsive to the association of Liberty…

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Coins You Can Find - Indian Head Cent - The Beginning

The Birth of the Indian Head Cent

Indian Head Penny

The half-dollar-sized large cent was struck from 1793 to 1857, authorized by the Mint Act of 1792 which defined the Cent as 1/100 dollar. That coin was intended to contain close to a cent's worth of copper, as people expected that coins contain close to their face values in metal. Nevertheless, because of the constitutional clause making only gold and silver legal tender, the government would not accept copper cents for taxes or other payments. By the early 1850s, fluctuations in the price of copper led the U.S. Mint to seek alternatives, including reducing the size of the cent and experimenting with compositions other than pure copper. The result was the Flying Eagle cent composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel. The Flying Eagle cent was struck in limited numbers as a pattern coin in 1856, then for circulation in 1857 and 1858.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Coins You Can Find - Indian Head Cent

I wanted to do something a little different. I read plenty of articles about coins I will own only if I have a few thousand extra dollars to spend. While I find the history of colonial coinage, for instance, fascinating, it has nothing to do with me and my collection.
With this in mind, I am going to do a series of posts (to become free ebooks when you subscribe to the newsletter) covering coins that can be easily purchased (and often found in pocket change!) today. Each coin will receive between 4-6 posts, beginning with a simple introduction.

Up first...

The Indian Head Cent

From 1793 to 1857, the cent was a copper coin about the size of a half dollar. As rising copper prices made it impractical to keep striking them, in 1857 the Mint reduced the size of the cent, issuing a new design, the Flying Eagle cent.