Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) is officially redefining a series of early American Colonial coins widely categorized by their state names and copper composition with numismatically correct references to their original denominations. The move recategorizes Confederation-period New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut coins as well as other pieces, such as Immune Columbia and Nova Constellatios–colloquially dubbed “coppers”–by their correct “halfpenny” denominations.
“We periodically make these changes based on strong document-based evidence and extensive research consulting original mint records, historic legislative documents, and other archival references that are thoroughly vetted,” explained PCGS President Stephanie Sabin. “In the case of redefining New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut, and other Confederation-era ‘coppers’ as halfpennies, the PCGS numismatic and grading teams, as well as many trusted consultants and external experts, spent many hours researching legal government documents and numismatic references contemporary to the confederation era to determine that the technical definition of these coins is of the era to determine that they are correctly known as halfpennies and not merely ‘coppers.’”
Researchers acknowledge it is clearly evident in state assembly documents of the period from New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut that the Confederation-era copper coinage was designed as weight- and standard-based equivalents to the British halfpenny coinage, then nicknamed “coppers”. However, “copper” was never the official denomination of any coin used during the Colonial or early Federal periods.
Sabin cited that, in a similar vein, the current widespread use of the slang term “penny” to refer to the United States one-cent coin – or “nickel” for the nation’s five-cent coin – is also technically incorrect.
“We often make minor changes to definitions on labels to improve the clarity of our specifications and overhaul other overly abbreviated, incorrect, or imprecise referential formats to ensure that our nomenclature is as numismatically sound as possible.”
A team of PCGS and industry experts has presented its many findings in a detailed article that explains not just the reasoning behind this nomenclature change but also the myriad historical facts supporting it.