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Massachusetts Copper

An “Act for establishing a mint for the coinage of gold, silver and copper” was passed by the Massachusetts General Court on October 17, 1786. The next year, the council directed that the design should incorporate “the figure of an Indian with a bow & arrow & a star at one side, with the word ‘Commonwealth,’ the reverse a spread eagle with the words—‘of Massachusetts A.D. 1787. ’ ” The coinage of Massachusetts copper cents and half cents in 1787 and 1788 was under the direction of Joshua Witherle. These were the first coins bearing the denomination cent as would later be established by Congress. Many varieties exist, the most valuable being that with arrows in the eagle’s right talon. Most of the dies for these coppers were made by Joseph Callender. Jacob Perkins of Newburyport also engraved some of the 1788 dies. The mint was abandoned early in 1789, in compliance with the newly ratified Constitution, and because its production was unprofitable. Early American coins were produced from handmade dies, which are often individually distinctive. The great number of die varieties that can be found and identified are of interest to collectors who value each according to individual rarity. Values shown for type coins in this book are for the most common die variety of each.

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