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  • Nova Eborac Copper Coins

    Nova Eborac Coppers 1787: Introduction

    In March of 1787 the New York State Assembly took a stance restricting the circulation of lightweight coppers and rejecting all the petitions they had requested for permission to mint coppers. The two majors contenders for the minting rights took matters into their own hands. Thomas Machin and his partnership concluded an agreement with the Vermont mint and also began producing imitation British halfpence. The other major contender for the New York contract was the partnership of Ephraim Brasher and John Bailey. Brasher and Bailey also took matters into their own hands by privately minting Nova Eborac coppers (Nova Eborac being the Latin for New York). The coins were made to look like contemporary British and Connecticut coppers with an obverse portrait of a mailed bust facing right and wearing a laureal wreath with the legend "NOVA EBORAC." The reverse contained a seated figure of Liberty holding a branch in one hand and a liberty pole in the other with a shield below, similar to Britannia, with the legend "VIRT. ET LIB." (Virtue and Liberty) and the date 1787 in exergue. These coins were accepted and regularly used for they are usually found in well circulated condition. Their weight range is from 88 - 150 grains.

    All Nova Eborac coppers bear the date 1787. They are found in four varieties made from three obverse and four reverse dies. The four basic types are as follows: Crosby 1-A, medium head with reverse figure facing right; Crosby 1-B, medium head with reverse figure facing left; Crosby 2-C, the large head variety; and Crosby 3-D, the small head variety. Trudgen believes the first variety to be struck was Crosby 3-D, the small head variety (estimated from ten to twelve examples survive). This "small head" (die 3) can be easily identified by the obverse legend which is the only variety to use a six pointed star at either end on the legend (all other varieties use quatrefoils) and is also the only variety to have a star above the bust (all others are blank at the top). This was followed by Crosby 2-C, the large head variety (twenty-five to thirty specimens survive). The "large head" variety (die 2) can be distinguished as the only variety with two quatrefoil designs before "NOVA" in the legend; it is also the only quatrefoil variety that lacks a quatrefoil after NOVA. The next variety, Crosby 1-B, is known as the medium head with reverse facing left (thirty to forty examples with full date and 170-210 examples with partial or weak date). The obverse die 1 can be distinguised in that it has a single quatrefoil before and another after NOVA. This variety with reverse B is distinguished as the only medium head variety with a reverse where the seated figure faces left. The final variety, Crosby 1-A, has the same obverse medium head die as 1-B, however it is the only variety that has a reverse facing right. The only similar right facing Liberty is found on a Connecticut copper, 1786 Miller 1.4-WW. The only other right facing Liberty is the very different styled figure holding the scales of justice as found on the 1785 Immune Columbia, the 1786 Non Vi Virtuti Vici and the 1786-7 coppers with the Immunis Columbia motto. The Nova Eborac Crosby A-1 comes in three die states, early (fifteen to twenty examples), middle (forty to fifty examples) and late (90-120 examples). The first state is without defect, the middle state shows a die break on the obverse starting from the rim at the B in "LIB". The final state occurs when the crack widens into a triangular cud.

    Anthony Terranova discovered punch link evidence associating these coppers to the Brasher doubloons, and Breen has shown them to be stylistically similar to coins by Brasher and Bailey as the New Jersey "Running Fox" (Maris 74-bb, 75-bb, 76-cc, 77-dd and 78-dd) and the New York "Excelsior" coppers. It has long been thought the small head Nova Eborac was an independent work produced at a different location. Recently, Trugden used punch evidence to show all issues were prepared by a single engraver, whom he identified as John Bailey, working in or near New York City. Trudgen also stated Bailey was responsible for the Connecticut "Muttonhead" coppers of 1787 (Miller 1.2-C) which uses some of the same punches as the Nova Eborac coppers. Trudgen suspects the Muttonhead coppers were produced first, followed by the small head Nova Eborac. These two issues are similar stylistically and both dies experienced a bulge aound the bust which Trudgen takes as "evidence that the dies were manufactured within the same time frame and by the same operation." He also states the six pointed star punch used on the small head obverse was also used on the Excelsior coppers and on the obverses of the New Jersey "Running Fox" obverse varieties Maris 74 and 76.


    See: Gary Trudgen, "The Nova Eborac Coppers," The Colonial Newsletter 31 (September, 1991, serial no. 89) 1261-1272 and his "Nova Eborac Filmprint Punch Study," The Colonial Newsletter 31 (February, 1993, serial no. 93) 1357-1359; also see Walter Breen, "Brasher & Bailey: Pioneer N.Y. Coiners 1787-1792" in Centennial Publications of the American Numismatic Society,  edited by Harald Ingholt, N.Y.: American Numismatic Society, 1958, pp. 137-145.

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