Sunday, August 30, 2009

Connecticut Copper Cent

While cataloging material from Stratum 1 of Unit 76 (Jamieson field) on Friday, Kelley and Anne found what appeared to them to be a coin. It had been broken in half and it was well-worn.

I looked at it today and noticed the letters CONN on the obverse of the piece. If that meant Connecticut, it would be easy to identify, placing its mint date between the end of the Revolutionary War and the signing of the US Constitution (1790), which vested the right to mint coinage with the Congress (Article I, Section 8).

Indeed, I found an image of the complete coin on the site of the American Numismatics Society ( While the newly erected state of Connecticut minted several versions of this same copper cent between 1785 and 1789, the one pictured below our find is close enough for present purposes. It shows on the obverse the head of a Roman soldier or statesman and the words AUCTORI CONNECT (which I translate as "under the authority of Connecticut"). The reverse depicts Britannia encircled with the words INDE ET LIB, abbreviations for what I translate as Independence and Liberty. The date should appear on our find, but the piece is too badly worn to see it.

I do not know how long these coins remained in circulation as quasi-tender. Prior to the middle of the 19th century, coins from the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Netherlands frequently were used in commerce because of the scarcity of American coins. Copper coins, and other base metal coins, often were viewed with suspicion because their value was based on tacit consent and trust. Gold and silver coins had intrinsic value and were always welcome, whereas the copper in a copper cent was worth less than the face value of the coin. Paper currency was similarly distrusted.


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