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Ah, to be in the time of the First Continental Congress when America was a young independent nation. You've just discovered a Massachusetts state copper from 1787, so you feel like putting on your wig and tricorner hat and jumping into the Spirit of 1776 painting. But how much is that old American coin worth?
Actually, you have to hand it to the home state of the Kennedys and the site of the Boston Tea Party. Massachusetts coppers are more perfectly formed than other old coins of this time--as good as the British Royal Mint. If you have a Horned Eagle coin, you're in luck.
The colonists were understandably more concerned with forging this newfound freedom, dealing with the slave question and surviving than thinking about the collectors' value of their coins. As a result, coiners often used coin-producing metal dies until the metal fell apart. The value of old coins such as the Constellatio Nova Coppers of 1783 and 1785, the Bar Copper of 1785, Auctori Plebis Token 1787, and the Immunis Columbia Copper of 1787 may not be as high as you think.
But our Founding Father didn't give up because the quest for liberty had a few bugs. Some notes and old coin tips before you consider joining the redcoats:
* One collector may love that coin with General Washington's crooked nose. The other may decide there are more flattering portraits of George around.
* Some old coins were re-minted or struck. Collectors and dealers may determine old coin values by the undertype rather than what's on the surface.
* Some old coins have holes, but how far you downgrade an old American coin, from Extremely Fine to Fine or Extremely Fine to Good, is up to you.
* As with other coins, old American coin split grades depend on whether you put greater emphasis on the obverse (the horned eagle, for example) or the reverse.
If you're buying or selling old coins, just remember not to tax your purchase too heavily--remember what happened to the British! The Revolutionary War, after all, started over tea leaves.