New Jersey Coppers 1786-1790: Introduction


On June 1, 1786, the New Jersey legislature authorized Walter Mould, Thomas Goadsby, and Albion Cox to mint three million copper coins at a weight of 150 grains each over a two-year period in return for a ten percent royalty to the state and the posting of a £10,000 surety bond. The coppers were to circulate at fifteen to the shilling and were to be produced within New Jersey. The design of the coins was not resolved, the legislation simply stated they were to have "Marks and Inscriptions as shall be directed by the Justices of the Supreme Court, or any one of them."

The obverse of the copper displayed a plow beneath a horse head facing right with the legend NOVA CÆSAREA (as on the state coat of arms) and the date. The use of "CÆSAREA" is based on the ancient classical name for the Island of Jersey in the English Channel. In Roman times this island was called Caesar's Island (insula Caesarea) so when latinizing the state name, the word "Jersey" was transformed to "Caesarea." The 1688 indenture issued by Charles II called the colony "Nova Caesarea, of New Jersey." The reverse of the coin depicted an American shield that is similar to one used on some of the confederation patterns along with the national motto as the legend, E PLURIBUS UNUM (One from many). New Jersey coppers were the first coins to bear the national motto.

By the fall of 1786 the partners had selected two buildings for their coining operation: a grist mill and a saw mill, both owned by Daniel Marsh, one of the state legislators who had sponsored the coinage bill. Although their coinage contract was only for two years Marsh leased the sites to the partners for a period of seven years. The two locations were about a mile apart on the Rahway River in Elizabethtown (now Rahway), New Jersey. Apparently the copper planchets were produced at one location and the stamping was done at the other location (Trudgen 1992). Matthias Ogden provided surety for the payment of the lease. At this point it seems Goadsby and Cox had a disagreement with Walter Mould. They charged that Mould would not post his required surety bond. Goadsby and Cox then petitioned the state to allow them to divide the contract. The petition was granted on November 22nd, at which time the two partners could legally begin minting two million coins. On January 19, 1787, Mould secured his bond and was allowed to mint one million coppers at a independent site two miles west of Morristown, on the Sussex Turnpike at a residence called "Solitude," owned by John Cleve Symmes, a member of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

On July 7, 1787, Goadsby loaned Cox £1200, with Samuel Atlee of New York City acting as the cosigner. Albion Cox, who was already in debt to an English relative named William Cox, had problems repaying his loans. Suits were filed by both creditors. On November 6th, Goadsby obtained a writ allowing him to seize jointly held coining equipment and the stock of copper bars and blank planchets. From later documents we know the items were: one pair of rollers, two iron cutting presses, a coining press, twelve ingot molds for casting copper, sixty ingots of copper and six hundred weight of finished copper planchets (672 lbs or between 32,000 and 28,000 planchets). Possibly during November, but certainly by December, Albion Cox was in jail. During December Thomas Goadsby, still fearing the minting equipment would be seized to pay Cox's debts, shipped the Rahway press, three ingots of copper and the some 30,000 blank planchets to Walter Mould's mint in Morristown. By January 1788, however, Cox was released from jail, and on the 19th, he obtained a stay of execution against Goadsby's writ of seizure. Then on the 29th, Cox secured a writ of replevin directing the sheriff to recover the items taken by Goadsby. In early February the press was returned to Rahway, and the following month Rahway received back three ingots of the copper along with 494 unused blank planchets. Goadsby then sued Cox who in turn countersued Goadsby. Finally after six months of legal battles, on June 7, 1788, the court awarded custody of all minting equipment to Matthias Ogden, their bondholder, who was allowed to complete the state coining contract. Ogden then took some, if not all of the Rahway minting equipment and transported it to his family home on Water Street in Elizabethtown where he set up another mint.

The Cox and Goadsby lawsuits lasted until June of 1790, long past the two year deadline for the minting of two million coppers. The last royalty payment to the state from the partnership was made by Ogden's assistant on July 3, 1788, less than a week before the court appointed deadline for Cox and Goadsby to settle their disputes. From this point it appears Ogden was allowed to continue to fulfill the promised two million coins as he kept minting coppers until 1790, however during this period he continued to use the dies he had on hand dated 1786 and 1787. This has complicated matters considerably for some die combinations originally struck at the Rahway mint were also struck at a later date by Ogden in Elizabethtown. Currently it is difficult to be sure if a specific example was struck earlier at Rahway or later by Ogden. One helpful fact is that many of Ogden's coins were overstrikes, using any copper he could get that circulated at a rate above fifteen to the shilling. For example, by 1789-90 Connecticut coppers were circulating at forty-five to the shilling. By overstriking them as New Jersey coppers, which passed at fifteen to the shilling, Ogden realized a two hundred percent profit. [For a table of New Jersey overstruck coins see Mossman, pp. 271-272].

Mould, on the other hand, working at Morristown had fulfilled his obligation by August 1788. Mould's planchets were larger than those used at the Rahway mint (roughly 30mm diameter to Rahway's 28mm), yet several New Jersey types are found minted with Rahway dies on Morristown planchets, these include late states of Maris 37-X, 37-Y, 37-f, 48-g, 48-f, 49-f and 50-f. This has led Hodder to conclude that Mould acquired some of the Rahway mint dies, probably when Goadsby shipped him the minting equipment in late 1787. Hodder also discovered that some Morristown varieties as Maris 64-t and late states of obverse 6, primarily the 6-D variety, are sometimes found on the smaller Rahway planchets (Dennis Wierzba adds 67-v to this list). Hodder suggested these coins were made in Morristown using some of the Rahway planchets acquired from Goadsby (see CNL n. 95, p. 1399 for Hodder's listings). Apparently Mould also subcontracted some work out to John Bailey of New York, who produced New Jersey coppers dated 1788, adding a small running animal, usually called a fox but sometimes referred to as a horse, that is found in the reverse legend as his mintmark (Maris 74-bb, 75-bb, 76-cc, 77-cc and 77-dd, with the late state of 77-dd previously thought to be a different die formerly called 78-dd).

Discovery of the shipment of the Rahway press to Morristown has overthrown a long held belief concerning the origins of an unusual group of coppers depicting the horse head facing left (Maris 49-f, 50-f and 51-g). Traditionally these three varieties were attributed to Goadsby working independently at Rahway after getting a legal writ against Cox on November 6, 1787. It was said he changed the direction of the horse head so the coins could be easily identified as his personal product. However, now that we know there was no coining press at Rahway, the only person who could not have minted these coins is the person they have been traditionally assigned to! To date the mystery of the left facing coppers has not been solved.

There are also some very rare lightweight counterfeit New Jersey coppers, as Maris 79-ee, 80-ff, 81-ll, 83-ii and 84-kk (no more that 3 or 4 examples of any of these varieties survive) along with a more common counterfeit copper called the "Serpent Head" variety, Maris 54-k (an R3, with 151-250 examples surviving). The "Serpent Head," which was the only mass produced counterfeit, was attributed by generations of numismatists to a man named Hatfield. The attribution derives from a letter written by Charles Bushnell in ca. 1875 to Sylvester Crosby. During the 1850s Bushnell had interviewed or written to individuals who had knowledge of the early mints and asked for their recollections. Crosby (p. 282) quotes the letter as follows:

Mr. J. R. Halsted informed me some [20] years ago that an acquaintance of his knew a Mr. Hatfield, who claimed to have made dies and coined New Jersey coppers, in a barn, (Mr. Halsted thought) below Elizabethtown, in striking which he was assisted by a negro.

Clearly, based on the above recollection, specifically linking Hatfield to the "Serpent Head" variety is merely a hypothesis. However, Breen took this connection as a proven fact and extrapolated further. Without mentioning any sources, Breen stated that several of the Maris 54-k coppers appeared in New York City thus he supposed Hatfield may have minted the coins on Staten Island, even though the letter specifically stated that he worked somewhere below Elizabethtown. In 2008, Ray Williams suggested that Mr. Hatfield did not operate an illegal mint but was an employee at the Rahway mint. Williams discovered that Matthais Ogden had uncles and cousins with the Hatfield family name. He also explained that when Bushnell interviewed Halsted numismatists only knew of the Elizabethtown and Morristown mints. Damon Douglas first uncovered the location of the initial New Jersey mint at Rahway in 1951. Since Rahway is located about six miles southwest of Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), it is possible the Mr. Hatfield mentioned by Halsted was a relation of Ogden employed at the Rahway mint, and was not involved in producing lightweight counterfeit coppers.

Also, it has long been thought the "Camel Head" varieties (Maris 56-n, 57-n and 58-n) were counterfeits made at Machin's Mills. The punches used for stamping the letters in these dies have been identified as tools originally owned by the Connecticut mint of Jarvis and Company and it is known that Jarvis's tools eventually ended up at Machin's Mills. Additionally, it was realized that most "Camel Heads" were overstamped on lightweight coppers and it is well known that numerous overstamps were produced at Machin's Mills. However, Mossman has discovered the "Camels" were struck on all types of coppers, including Machin's Mills imitation halfpence. Thomas Machin did not work this way, rather he purchased a large supply of a specific lightweight copper coin and then used it to strike an entire run; for example, he used the lightweight Constellatio Nova coppers as planchets for counterfeit Connecticut coppers while at another time he used Irish halfpence to make Vermont coppers. It is also clear Thomas Machin would not have cut into his profits by using his own counterfeit coppers to make other counterfeits. The haphazard nature of the understrikes used for the "Camels" does not fit the Machin's Mills pattern but it does fit Ogden's method of operation. Further, Dennis Wierzba has communicated to me that since the "Camel Head" dies are not known to have been muled with any Vermont, Connecticut or other Machin's Mills related dies, it is even more probable the "Camel Head" coppers were not produced at Machin's Mills. Thus, it is now thought Ogden had someone make the "Camel Head" dies for him, possibly James Atlee at Machin's Mills. The dies were then sent to Ogden and he used them extensively at his Elizabethtown mint (the "Camel Head" variety Maris 56-n is among the most common New Jersey coppers with over 400 surviving, although the other two "Camel Head" varieties are rarer).

Recently it has also been shown that the date on a New Jersey copper does not necessarily reflect the actual year of minting, and further, the date may not even reflect the year in which the die was first put into use. Michael Hodder has observed: "It is unlikely that the forty-six New Jersey die combinations dated 1786 were struck over the thirty-nine days between November 22 [when Cox and Goadsby were given legal permission to begin minting] and December 31, 1786." Based on this premise Hodder has studied reverse dies, (those used to impress the shield on the coin) that were known to have been used with obverse dies dated to both 1786 and 1787. He discovered that obverse and reverse dies were not used in any systematic fashion. For example, in his study of the variety known as the J reverse, he discovered nine of ten obverse dies were used intermittently throughout the life of the J reverse. One obverse die dated 1787 might be used for a while then replaced with an obverse dated 1786 and later put back in service. Thus, the obverse dates are not necessarily the year of minting. By examining the progression of die breaks, weight differentials and planchet size Hodder discovered that even the earliest state of the J reverse, which is found on coppers dated 1786 using obverse Maris 14, actually date to 1787-1788! He also surmised some 1787 dated coins, as some Maris 33-U coppers, may have been produced in 1786. Thus, the date on a New Jersey coppers may indicate the year in which the die was first made (although this is not always the case); but it certainly cannot be taken as representing the year in which the coins from that die were minted. These studies were based on the generally accepted premise that each New Jersey die was a unique individually created item that had not been produced by the use of a hub to impress the exact same image (letters and design) in two different dies (we know Abel Buell used hubbing to create some of the Connecticut copper dies and possibly to a very limited extent his process may have been used in New York and Vermont).

An interesting description of Matthais Ogden's Elizabethtown mint is found in a letter of March 19, 1858, from F.B. Chetwood of Elizabeth, New Jersey to the numismatist and author John H. Hickcox. The description, related in Crosby, is a recollection by Chetwood's seventy-eight year old mother who lived in the house beside the mint and visited it several times when she was a child of ten or twelve. The letter stated:

The business was carried on in a room behind the kitchen, by Gilbert Rindle and a person whose name she thinks is Cox.

The modus operandi was as follows: in the middle of the room was a wooden box or pit sunk in the floor several feet deep, in the middle of which pit was placed an iron Die, the top of which was about level with the floor of the room. A workman sat on the floor, with his legs inside the pit. He placed the smooth coppers on the Die and when stamped, brushed them off the die into the pit. The impression on the copper was made by a screw-press which was worked by two men, one at each end of an iron bar or horizontal lever, attached to the screw at the centre of its length, which was about nine feet long.

My mother thinks it was in operation only a year or two, but her recollection on this point is not very reliable.

The copper was brought to that house, all finished, as she thinks, except the stamping. She has no recollection at all of any other branch of the business being carried on there. She recollects that the copper when coined was put into kegs and sent off somewhere...       [Crosby, p. 287]

Phil Mossman has estimated a conservative estimate of the total New Jersey copper production is about four million or more pieces. Also, as was so often instituted as a cost saving measure at the several privately run mints of the Confederation period, the weight of the New Jersey coppers decreased during the years of production.


Note - Several corrections and comments made by Dennis Wierzba in an e-mail of May 22, 1999 were incorporated into this section.

Note - Several of the die distinctions within the New Jersey series are based on differences in specific parts of the plow on the obverse or variations in the shield on the reverse. In 1966 Paul Carey created a plate explaining the particulars of these items, as most people do not have a command of detailed heraldic terminology nor can they identify the particular parts of a plow. The Carey plate was reproduced by Anton in his 1975 CNL article cited below. A copy of the plate, used with permission from CNL, (at 100 dpi) can be seen by clicking here for the Full Plate. For larger (150 dpi) reproductions of just the drawing of the coin with the individual parts listed click here for the Obverse and here for the Reverse.

Note - In my discussions of the individual coins I have called the dexter and sinister points on the shield the left (dexter) point and the right (sinister) point. Actually the heraldic term "dexter" is Latin for right and "sinister" is the word for left. In heraldry, descriptive terminology refers to the side of the object, not the viewer. However, as all other coin references are made from the vantage point of the viewer, I have continued to used the viewer as my reference point and then to give the proper heraldic term. My apologies to any Latinists or heraldry experts, I realize it seems rather strange to see right called left and left called right!


New Jersey Copper Die Variety Charts 1786-1788

by Roger Moore, M.D. [revised Sept. 8, 2003]

Maris Plate-I

A number of charts exist showing the numerous NJ obverse and reverse die varieties and their known pairings. However, the chart which has withstood the test of time and still serves as the primary reference for identifying NJ coppers is a photograph which appeared in 1881 as part of the classic book, A Historical Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey, written by Edward Maris, MD. A copy of this photograph, which measures 14 3/4 inches by 19 1/8 inches, broken down into four quadrants can be viewed by clicking below.

Maris Plate-1 Photograph:

Upper left quadrant.
Lower left quadrant.
Upper right quadrant.
Lower right quadrant.

The Maris 1881 photograph is called the Maris Plate-I Photograph and is a picture of an actual plate made up of the known die varieties of the NJ coins using real coins, electrotypes of coins and possibly photographs of coins. Each die variety is indicated by a specific number (for the obverse dies) or letter (for the reverse dies). The die combinations are shown by ligature lines draw between the relevant obverse and reverse dies. Once the Maris Plate-I was photographed, it was disassembled and no known portion of this plate is known to exist at this time.


Maris Plate-II

A second plate exists, which consists of 140 NJ electrotypes soldered onto a zinc sheet measuring 18 inches by 24 inches and which is very similar to the Maris Plate-I in regard to the NJ die varieties used and their arrangement on the plate. This plate which is called the Maris plate-II is believed to have been made sometime between 1881 and 1900 by Dr. Maris and it presently resides in the New Jersey Historical Society. In spite of the similarities between the Maris Plate-I and Maris Plate-II, a number of differences do exist. The most important differences include showing the "21-R" die combination with the addition of a new ligature line, as well as having a rearrangement of the coin images in order to show the die combinations of the "83-gg" (the "gg" was later changed to "ii"), and the "blank obverse-u". None of these die combinations were known when the photograph of the Maris Plate-I was published. Four quadrant photographs of the Maris Plate-II can be viewed by clicking below:

The following four images are used with permission from the Maris Plate-II in the Collection of the New Jersey Historical Society (Accession number 1953.44).

Maris Plate-II Photograph:

Upper left quadrant.
Lower left quadrant.
Upper right quadrant.
Lower right quadrant.


Maris Plate-III

A third plate made up of a zinc sheet with 140 electrotypes of NJ die varieties soldered to it which was made by Dr. Maris presently exists in a private collection. It was made at some point after the Maris Plate-II. The primary difference in the Maris Plate-III, compared to the Maris Plate-II, is the rearrangement of the electrotypes in the lower left quadrant in order to allow for a better representation of the "21-R" die combination. In the 1940s a photographer named Steven Nagy made four photographs of the Maris plate-III representing each quadrant. Sets of these photographs are occasional available for purchase and one set (in the CNLF photofiles), which has been written on in a number of places to make corrections, can be viewed by clicking below.

Maris Plate-III Photograph:

Upper left quadrant.
Lower left quadrant.
Upper right quadrant.
Lower right quadrant.

A more complete description of the three Maris plates is available in an article, "The Maris Plates", by Roger Moore MD and Dennis Wierzba, published in The Colonial Newsletter, vol. 43, number 2, August 2003, sequential page 2495-2527.


Latest revision April 23, 2009.

References

For the essential documents see Crosby, pp. 275-288, also see Mossman, pp. 177-183 and 271. The standard identification guide to New Jersey coppers is: Edward Maris, A Historical Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey  Philadelphia: Bellows, 1881 (reprinted with comments by Walter Breen in 1974 by Quarterman with several later editions of the plates, as in The State Coinage of New Jersey, by Bruce Kess, Glen Rock, NJ, 1988). Varieties are updated by William Anton "A Modern Survey of the Copper Coinage of New Jersey," The Colonial Newsletter 14 (July, 1975, serial no. 44) 489-513.

Also see:

Gary Trudgen, "Which Mill was the Actual Location of the Rahway Mint?" The Colonial Newsletter 32 (February 1992, serial no. 90) 1281-1283 (followed by a biography of Goadsby on 1284-1290); Michael Hodder, "New Jersey Reverse J: A Biennial Die," The American Journal of Numismatics 1(1989) 195-237; and his "New Jersey Reverse U: A Biennial Die," in The American Numismatic Association Centennial Anthology ed. By C. Carlson and M. Hodder, Wolfeboro, N.H.: Bowers and Merana, 1991, pp. 19-34 (with a bibliography including major auction catalogs); also his "Research in Progess: New Jersey Biennial Dies" The Colonial Newsletter 29 (August 1989, serial no. 82) 1094-1098 and his "Oh, What Tangled Webs We Mortals Weave...The Story of the N.J. Head Left Coppers" The Colonial Newsletter 33 (October 1993, serial no. 95) 1396-1400;

Roger Moore MD and Dennis Wierzba, "The Maris Plates", The Colonial Newsletter, vol. 43, number 2, August 2003, sequential page 2495-2527;

Ray Williams, "The 'Hatfield Mint,' " The C4 Newsletter, vol. 16, number 3 (Fall, 2008), pp. 15-17;

Damon Douglas, The Copper Coinage of the State of New Jersey, New York: American Numismatic Society, 2003; and his, "The Original Mint of the New Jersey Coppers," in Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, vol. 69, no. 3 (July, 1951), pp. 223-230.


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