Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1700's US Copper - another feather in my Liberty Cap

Hey everyone!  I got to out yesterday, once again following the trail of Union soldiers marching through central North Carolina in 1865.  It's important to remember, though, that many of the roads used during the Civil War existed well before hostilities, connecting the towns, mills, churches, schools, and plantations of the earliest North Carolina settlers.  Jim and I found ourselves at one of these "crossroads of history" yesterday, now nothing more than a plowed cotton field.  We were also joined by another local relic hunter, Mike, who happened to be driving past and saw us out in the field!  Like any good (obsessive, like myself) relic hunter, he had his machine with him, and we invited him to join in the search.

Jim found the only likely Civil War relics of the day - four (yes, four) brass boot toe plates.  This makes perfect sense to find along the road where a large column of troops marched.  While I didn't find any relics that can be directly related to the American Civil War, what I did recover made for an excellent day of detecting.  The first of these was a man's wedding ring, with no inscription, made of brass.  Being a brass ring, and found at that location, means it is likely quite old.  However, the continued use of this area for some 200+ years means it won't be possible to date with any accuracy.  Sadly, my digital camera died the other day, so I won't be able to post a picture of it until the camera is replaced.  But I can show you my other two nice finds using a flatbed scanner!

The best finds of the day for me were two US large cents.  Considering I only found three large cents in all of 2011, this was a good day for me to say the least!  The first one, shown above, is of the braided hair variety (1839-1857), and appears to be in decent shape below the surface damage.  I may attempt a peroxide bath to clean this coin in the future, and I'll certainly post the results if I do.  For you budding numismatists out there, DON'T clean your coins unless you're certain they hold little to no numismatic value.  Doing so will greatly reduce or destroy any associated value.

The other cent really got me excited though.  It's heavily worn, but even in the field I could see one small area of detail remaining.  I knew it would be enough to ID the coin, and I knew it didn't match up with a typical matron head penny, and was too large to be braided hair.  A comparison of the detail to known coins matches with the Liberty Cap large cent - a first for me, and my very first coin from the 1700's!!  WOOHOO!!  My dug coin is on the left, with a an excellent 1796 Liberty cap from PCGS coinfacts on the right for reference.  Notice the detail in the red circle on my coin, corresponding to the top of Liberty's hair.
The US first began minting their own coinage in 1792, beginning with the silver half disme (spelled with an "s").  In 1793 they introduced the first United States copper penny, known as a flowing hair large cent.  This very rare coin is comprised of two subtypes, the chain cent and wreath cent.  The design of the penny was highly criticized at the time, and changed to the liberty cap design later in 1793.  The coin shows Lady Liberty holding a cap on a pole, a symbol of freedom at the time.  The reverse of the coin features the classic laurel wreath and denomination.  The denomination, "One hundred for a dollar", was also originally stamped along the thick edge of the coin.  During 1795, President Washington reduced the overall weight of the coin.  The decreased thickness meant the edge lettering could no longer be included on most 1795 and all 1796 liberty cap cents.  In 1797, the design was again changed to the bust cent, meaning my coin dates somewhere between 1793 and 1796.  Based on the thickness of my coin (it is comparable to the matron head large cents I have previously dug) and lack of edge lettering (though they may have simply been worn off), I believe this coin is most likely a 1795-6 large cent  I will need to take an accurate weight measurement to confirm this.

It's amazing simply to hold a a coin minted during the Presidency of George Washington himself.  It's fascinating to think of the hands it passed through before being lost in in that field so many years ago.  I'm glad to have recovered it and to be able to share it with you here.  It is this connection to our history, in this particular case the history of our fledgeling nation establishing its place in the world, that drives the passion I have for detecting.  Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoyed reading!!

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