The initials W. M. are on the reverse of the New Hampshire 1776 copper. Most examples of this coin in circulation today are copies of the original, made for the 1876 Independence Centennial.
As an appraiser, over time, you run into the same reproductions, which turn up every couple of years like old friends at a reunion. And like those old friends from school, you sort of recognize them, but enough time has gone by it takes a while to remember who they are. In the case of the coin pictured above, I see one of these about every three years, each time its owner’s enthusiasm is contagious, making me think that maybe, just maybe, “this one’s the real thing!” Sadly it’s rarely the case.
Still, the possibility for finding the rare, unusual and valuable among the bric-à-brac still gets my heart pounding some 47 years after I bought my first antique.
The subject of this article is the New Hampshire 1776 copper. New Hampshire was the first state to attempt to produce local coinage following the Declaration of Independence and in 1776, William Moulton (that’s what the “WM” stands for on this coin) was authorized to produce an experimental run of copper coins. This coin never attained general circulation, and today, with very rare exceptions, all of the examples out there are all thought to be reproductions.
Two of the five versions of the New Hampshire 1776 copper carry the date “1776” on the obverse.
There are at least five variations of the New Hampshire coin known, two of which carry the date 1776 on the obverse and the initials W. M. on the reverse. It should be noted several modern reproductions of these coins exist. Many of the oldest reproductions were made about the time of the Independence Centennial celebration in 1876. These and other Colonial-era replicas were sold as souvenirs of American history at that time with no intention of fraud. But 134 years later, they are regularly dug out of the ground or found in the forgotten boxes and trunks of great grandparents, causing great hope and confusion as to their worth and origin.
In the case of the one above, and just about every example like it with the W.M. initials, are now thought to be of doubtful origin and were removed from editions of coin price guides as far back as 1998. Still, this reproduction, when identified for what it is, would sell for about $50 in the current market*.
*Values for rare old American coins can be enormous. If you have any doubts about an old American coin you’ve found. we suggest you contact the American Numismatic Association for certification.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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