Imitation British Halfpence (Machin’s Mills and Other Coinage of 1786-1789

Obverse of Machin's Mills Imitation Halfpence
Reverse of a Machin's Mills Imitation Halfpence

The most common coin used for small transactions in early America was the copper British halfpenny. These were widely accepted non-legal tender status and were a prime choice for unauthorized reproduction by private individuals. Many counterfeits were made in this country by casting or other crude methods; some were even made in England and imported to this country. During the American state coinage era, engravers used dies to mint unauthorized, lightweight, imitation British halfpence. These American-made British halfpence have the same devices, legends, and in some cases, dates as genuine regal halfpence. There are three distinctive groups of these halfpence: The first group probably struck in New York City dated prior to 1786, the second group was minted in New York City during the first half of 1787. The third group was struck at Machin’s Mills during the second half of 1787 and into 1788. Dates used on these pieces were often evasive and are as follows: 1771, 1772, and 1774 through 1776 for the first group. These pieces are not to be confused with similar English-made George III counterfeits, some of which have identical dates or with genuine British halfpence dated 1770-1775. Several individuals petitioned the New York Legislature in early 1787 for the right to coin copper for the state but the authority was never given. Instead, a law was passed to regulate the coper coins already in use. Nevertheless, various unauthorized copper coins were issued within the state, principally by two private mints. One firm, known as Machin’s Mills was located at the mills of Thomas Machin near Newburgh. The operations of Machin’s Mills were conducted in secret and were looked upon with suspicion by the local residents. They minted several varieties of imitation George III halfpence as well as coppers of Connecticut, Vermont, and New Jersey

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