The 1787 Immunis Columbia, with the Eagle reverse, is a mysterious issue that has puzzled numismatists since the earliest days of the hobby.
In The Early Coins of America, Sylvester Sage Crosby states these pieces were originally believed to be manufactured in England. However, Crosby’s study of the punches used for the dies and the overall workmanship convinced him they were closely related to contemporary issues, like the Liber Natus Liberatem Defendo, Non Vi Virtute Vici, and the George Clinton cent, which he believed were made in this country, possibly as patterns for a proposed state or federal coinage. Walter Breen followed this line of reasoning in his Encyclopedia, where he suggested the coins were struck as patterns at Rahway, New Jersey, from dies engraved by Thomas Atlee.
A different theory was proposed by Michael Hodder in his article “The 1787 ‘New York’ Immunis Columbia, A Mystery Re-Ravelled’ in the January 1991 issue of The Colonial Newsletter. Two varieties of the 1787 Immunis Columbia/Eagle coppers are known, differentiated by the size of the planchets they were struck on. Hodder noted that all four known examples of the Wide Planchet variety are struck over New Jersey coppers of the Maris 26-S variety, in a late state of the dies. The late state 26-S coppers were actually struck in 1788, or later. Since the Narrow Planchet examples are in a later die state then the Wide Planchet pieces, it is certain they were also struck in 1788 or early 1789 and, therefore, were not produced as patterns for any proposed 1787 coinage issue.
“This new study indicates that the issue was struck circa late 1788-middle 1789 under the auspices of Matthias Ogden in the original Rahway mint, where New Jersey 16-S and 26-S had also been coined. It is probable that the entire issue was planned for circulation, and was not struck to support Matthias Ogden’s March 3, 1787 coinage proposal, but rather, to provide Ogden with another source of revenue free from the 10% seigniorage payable to the state on the New Jersey coinage.”
The W-5680 is the only readily collectible variety in the Immunis Columbia series, indicating it was struck in larger numbers than most pattern issues. A number of coins are known in lower grades or impaired condition, also arguing that the issue was produced for circulation. The new information about the New Jersey origin has significantly expanded interest in the Immunis Columbia pieces among collectors of New Jersey state coinage.
Our upcoming June 6-9 Long Beach Signature Auction features the single-finest certified 1787 Immunis Columbia copper at either of the leading grading services, an example certified MS66 Brown by PCGS. Both obverse and reverse are well-centered, with all devices, lettering, and the date complete, but most of the dentils off the planchet. The design elements are sharply detailed throughout. The glossy chocolate-brown surfaces are impeccably preserved, with a few traces of olive at the peripheries. Evidence of die rust shows in the upper obverse field and some slight granularity is evident on Liberty’s torso. Altogether, this is a most attractive example of this popular Colonial issue.