Our upcoming August 13-20 ANA Signature Auction will feature a unique colonial coin: a Higley Copper with a wheel device and the legend THE WHEELE GOES ROUND. This unique Freidus 4-C is the only known Higley copper of this distinctive type: the only such Higley copper and the pivotal coin for the ultimate Higley collection. (The Higley 2-B.b is part of the 2-B type.) The obverse design is quite a departure from the usual deer motif seen on all other Higley varieties. Freidus writes: “Given that all features of this [obverse] die are dramatically different than all other dies no diagnostic details are needed.”
The obverse depicts a wheel with 12 spokes, likely from a central hub, although the coin is indistinct at the center. An index hand marks the beginning of the legend, THE . WHEELE . GOES . ROUND. The C reverse is from the undated Broad Axe die inscribed J. CUT. MY. WAY. THROUGH. That reverse also appears with obverse dies 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3.
Both sides feature the index hand (fist with outstretched index finger) and the W-punch with its connected top; the workmanship on the obverse is similar to that of the Higley broad axe reverse. Thus, there is no doubt Higley dies accomplished the striking of this unique piece. Chestnut and steel-brown appear on the obverse, and mostly bluish steel-brown graces the reverse of this most important copper. A few handling marks are evident, as expected for the grade and age of this copper.
Howland Wood discovered this variety in 1913 and reported his findings in the July issue of The Numismatist, with a photo of this identical example:
“The above illustration represents an entirely new discovery in the Colonial series, being a variety of the well-known Higley series of coppers that has never been mentioned or known of until a short time ago, when it came into the possession of Mr. Howland Wood among a lot of old coppers. It was covered with dirt and verdigris to such an extent that its character was not suspected until it had been thoroughly cleaned.
“The reverse of this interesting coin bears the same device as Crosby’s Type No. 3, Reverse C., which is illustrated on Plate VIII of his work on ‘Early Coins of America,’ and bears the number 24. This is the broadaxe device with the motto ‘I CUT MY WAY THROUGH.’ This reverse goes with the undated variety of the Higley pieces, which has the deer obverse, in contrast to the varieties bearing dates, respectively 1737 and 1739.
“This would seem to show that the new variety was struck about the same time as No. 24. The curious obverse of the new variety, however, is entirely different in design from that of the other pieces of the series, although its quaintness of inscription clearly indicates the same origin. ‘THE WHEELE GOES ROUND,’ with the wheel as the central device, is exactly of the same workmanship as the Higleys showing the deer, and the letters and index hand are undoubtedly from the same punches.”
This will be only the fourth time that this historic, unique, American copper has appeared at auction, offering an unprecedented opportunity for the advanced colonial specialist.