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  • Georgius Triumpho Copper

    Georgius Triumpho Copper of 1783: Introduction

    The "Georgius Triumpho" is the only Washington token bearing the date of 1783 that is actually known to have circulated during the Confederation period. All other Washington tokens bearing the 1783 date, which is the date of the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War, are now known to be commemorative tokens produced during the Nineteenth century. An early date of manufacture is confirmed for the "TRIUMPHO" since at least one of these pieces was used as a planchet by Matthias Ogden at his Elizabethtown, New Jersey, mint and overstruck as New Jersey coppers. The confirmation of an undertype is a difficult process as the coin has been restruck with a new design. One needs to be able to identify some faint traces of the undertype that were not completely obliterated during the restriking. As most colonial coins are well worn this is a difficult task and one that needs to be verified by different specialists independently examining the specimen. The one verified example of a "TRIUMPHO" reused as a planchet for a New Jersey copper is an example of a Maris 73-aa acquired by Dennis Wierzba from the Bowers and Merena sale of September 14, 1998. The "TRIUMPHO" undertype was noticed after the purchase and has been verified by Michael Hodder and Mike Ringo. This discovery will be discussed in the upcoming summer 1999 issue of the C4 Newsletter. Breen (1987, p. 133) related several Maris 73-aa examples had been overstruck using the "TRIUMPHO" copper as the planchet, however these coins have not been verified. Mossman (1992, p. 271) was not able to confirm the use of the "TRIUMPHO" as an undertype for Maris 73-aa from auction catalog descriptions but he did list the "TRIUMPHO" as an undertype on the very rare Maris 35-W and possibly on a Maris 56-n Camel Head. Anton and Kesse (p. 45) have examined the Maris 56-n (which was formerly in the Spiro sale, lot 1571 and then in Bareford sale, lot 186) and determined it did not have a "TRIUMPHO" undertype. The Maris 35-W remains unverified. As mentioned in the New Jersey coppers section, from mid 1788 through 1790 Ogden overstruck several varieties of circulating coppers using backdated New Jersey dies (all the dies mentioned here bear the date 1787).

    The obverse of the Triumphant George copper shows a laurel wreathed Washington in the style of the King George III Irish halfpenny (without the shoulders and mail armor) with the legend "GEORGIVS TRIUMPHO" (Triumphant George). The imitation of the George III obverse is so close that at first glance it is not evident which George is referred to, either Washington or George the King of England! Frequently it is suggested this coin was intended to have a double meaning. However, as it was produced in England it seems more likely the diemaker simply made an image imitating the style with which he was most familiar. Even in America the likeness of Washington was not well know at that time. In fact, it was not until the end of the confederation period, with the ratification of the constitution and Washington's election as the first president, that his image became universally recognized.

    The reverse of the copper also imitates the British halfpenny but less closely. It depicts a female figure taken to represent Liberty but is in a style quite similar to Britannia. Like Britannia the figure holds an olive branch in her outstretched right hand and holds a staff in her left hand. To be identified with Britannia the staff should be a trident, while for Liberty it would have been more appropriate to have included a liberty cap on top of the staff. Unlike Britannia, the figure is not seated but stands behind a gate consisting of thirteen columns with a fleur de lys in each corner. This obviously symbolizes the thirteen united colonies with the fleur de lys representing the French financial aid and support that helped to bring victory. The legend on the reverse is "VOCE POPOLI" which is actually the Italian rather than the Latin (populi) for "By the voice of the people" with the date 1783 in exergue. Most probably this is a mistake for the Latin rather than an intentional use of Italian. Paul Bosco suggests the reverse is satirical, depicting Britannia imprisoned behind a thirteen bar cage. I suspect it it simply an early attempt by an English diemaker to depict Liberty.

    Mike Ringo has observed the "TRIUMPHO" token shares some letter and number punches with the 1783 Constellatio Nova token, Crosby 1-A. This is the variety of Constellatio Nova that is considered to be by a different diemaker than the other varieties (but from the same mint). Also, as Newman has recently discussed, it is most probably these 1783 Constellation Nova coppers were produced in 1785. Ringo also suspects the "TRIUMPHO" has some stylistic similarities to a group of counterfeit English and Irish halfpence, although he admits the similarities to the halfpence are "not quite so obvious, and not as definitively proven" [as the Nova evidence]. Based on these observations he has attributed the "TRIUMPHO" token to an English token manufacturer in either Birmingham or Greenwich. However, based on Newman's more recent work on the Consellatio Nova series (and its relation to the "TRIUMPHO") it appears Birmingham is the more probable location.

    According to Robert Vlack, this token first circulated in Georgia then in Virginia and was later used in Jamaica, and in Florida. However, as both Newman and Fuld have recently observed, no evidence has been put forth to substantiate these claims.

    Last revision May 24, 1999


    See the revision of W.S. Baker's 1885 catalog by Russell Rulau and George Fuld, Medallic Portraits of Washington ,  Iola, WI: Krause, 1985, p. 27, item 7; George Fuld, "Coinage Featuring George Washington,"in Coinage of the Confederation Period,  ed. by Philip L. Mossman, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 11, held at the American Numismatic Society, October 28, 1995, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1996, pp. 165-259 on pp. 166-167 where it is listed as WA.1783.1; Eric P. Newman, "New Thoughts on the Nova Constellatio Private Copper Coinage" in Coinage of the Confederation Period,  ed. by Philip L. Mossman, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 11, held at the American Numismatic Society, October 28, 1995, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1996, pp. 79-105; William Anton and Bruce Kesse, The Forgotten Coins of the North American Colonies,  Iola, Wis.: Krause, 1992, p. 45; Mike Ringo, "The Georgius Triumpho Token," The Colonial Newsletter 35 (July 1995, serial no. 100) 1515-1520; and Robert Vlack, "The Washington Coppers of "1783"" The Colonial Newsletter 17 (July, 1978, serial no. 52) 636-652 on p. 651; e-mail correspondence from Dennis Wierzba on May 17, 18 and 22, 1999 concerning his recently acquired Maris 73-aa, with updates on the other NJ overstrikes, the citation to Anton and Kesse and some corrections to my text.

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    Section Contents Georgius Triumpho Copper

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