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Rare Countermarked 1786 “Baby Head” Vermont Copper to be Offered at Stack’s Bowers Auction

Vermont Copper Coin with rare counterstamp

By James McCartney – Numismatist & CatalogerStack’s Bowers ……

One of the most significant offerings in our October 2018 Baltimore Auction is a 1786 Ryder-9 Vermont copper countermarked in a manner most familiar to collectors of Regulated gold. This piece is a delightful representative of the popular Baby Head variety, offering glossy surfaces and bold definition to each side. The reverse is rotated 90 degrees clockwise, orienting AUCTORI opposite the date and leaving both soft. Darker coffee and russet patina inhabit the fields, while the devices show lighter honey-brown coloration. Slightly drawn towards 5 o’clock on the reverse, which just trims the tops of LIB at the edge. The planchet shows a narrow and natural flaw that spans from the rim near I of LIB to the I of INDE.

Most significant is an elliptical countermark in the right reverse field enclosing the characters JB written in cursive. What appears to be a small “o” separates the two larger letters. This mark is likely the work of English silversmith John Bailey, who was working throughout New York state from the 1750s up until his death in 1815. This mark is inverted relative to the reverse motif and is precariously placed between the hip of the seated figure and the colon separating ET LIB. The oval cartouche is tight to the letters within, and the punch is deeply impressed at the right but more shallow at the left. Considerable patina fills the crevices of the mark, though the identification as the letters JB is unmistakable. Though we have not found a completely identical match to the present mark, we are led to the attribution of Bailey through both contextual evidence and stylistic similarities to his signature on his swords and similar oval punches found on cutlery from the Fishkill area.

While the current JB countermark has not been previously tied to numismatics, John Bailey himself is certainly a familiar figure within the context of early U.S. coinage. Upon his return to New York City in 1784 after the war, Bailey formed a coalition with goldsmith Ephraim Brasher to petition the New York State legislature to secure a coinage contract. In a demonstration of their capabilities, they issued several “pattern” coppers including the 1787 Excelsior copper and 1787 Nova Eborac copper which are popular among colonial collectors today. Bailey is also considered responsible for the Running Fox varieties of the New Jersey copper, which share punches with the Excelsior coppers, Nova Eborac coppers, and even the famous 1787 New York Brasher doubloons. With a modern weight of under 98 grains, it was considerably lighter than most recognized issues of the era, though the mark of a respected silversmith was likely enough to assuage suspicion. This specimen is a potentially crucial piece in the fascinating and complex puzzle of the early American economy and it is sure to draw considerable interest from collectors of many specialties.

This rare countermarked 1786 Vermont copper is being offered as part of the Cohasco Collection in our October 2018 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo. Assembled in the 1960s and comprising over 425 pieces, the Cohasco Collection touches upon a wide range of colonial issues including Massachusetts silver, St. Patrick coinage, the coins of William Wood, state coinages, and Fugio coppers, among many others.  The Cohasco Collection will be presented in our session of early American and related issues, which will be held in conjunction with the Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4). The sale will be available for viewing and bidding on our website www.StacksBowers.com, or you may contact our offices to secure a printed catalog. To speak with a numismatic representative, please call 800-458-4646 or email [email protected]. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.

Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan
Charles Morgan is an award-winning numismatic author and the editor and publisher of CoinWeek.com. Along with co-author Hubert Walker, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the "Market Whimsy" column for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing. From 2021-2023, Charles served as Governor of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), where he was bestowed the Glenn Smedley Award. Charles is a member of numerous numismatic organizations, including the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG).

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