New York Copper Coinage

Although no official state authorization relating to a native
coinage is known, a number of issues were made with legends pertaining to New
York. On February 11, 1787, John
Bailey and Ephraim Brasher petitioned New York for the right to produce copper
coins. On March 3, 1787, Capt. Thomas
Machin did the same. Neither proposal
was acted upon favorably.

On April 20, 1787, an act was passed to provide that after August
1: “No copper shall pass current in this State except such as are of the
standard weight of one third part of an ounce avoirdupois, of pure copper,
which copper shall pass current at the rate of 20 to a shilling of lawful
current money of this state, and not otherwise…”

An extensive issue of 1787-dated copper coins, each with a head on
the obverse surrounded by NOVA EBORAC (“New York”) appeared. The reverse depicted a seated goddess with
a sprig in one hand and a liberty cap on a pole in the other hand, with the
legend “VIRT. ET LIB. (“virtue and liberty”) surrounding, with the date below. The letter punches used on these are
similar to those used on the Brasher-doubloon die. It has been suggested that John Bailey and
Ephraim Brasher operated a mint in New York City and produced these and
possibly other issues, notably the EXCELSIOR coins.

Machin’s Mills appears to have been the most prolific of those
striking New York-related coinage, despite not having an official patent from
the New York Legislature. Some of the
dies associated with Machin’s Mills and with New York are believed to have been
made in Birmingham, England, by Wyon. These
were used to strike certain pieces in Birmingham and were later shipped to the
United States for continued use. There
are many die combinations among these issues, some of which are not logical;
nearly all are of great rarity.

thought to have been samples made by James F. Altee for Thomas Machin’s
petition to the New York Assembly, mentioned above. Machin formed his partnership to make
private coppers on the very day the state senate rejected his petition. Atlee kept the LIBER NATUS die, and in the
Machin’s Mills mint’s last demoralized days, this die and others were used in various
combinations no matter how illogical, creating pieces of exceptional rarity.

Another issue struck from dies prepared by James Altee features on
the obverse a crude bust of George Washington with the legend NON VI VIRTUTE
VICI. The reverse contains a
Latinization of New York, NEO EBORACENSIS, surrounding a seated figure of
Liberty holding the scales of Justice and a Liberty cap, with the date 1786

Apart from the Nova Eborac
coppers, which are scarce, all copper pieces bearing legends relating to New
York and all die combinations of such pieces are of great rarity today.​​

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