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Q. David Bowers Color of Copper

The Color of Copper

By Q. David Bowers, Co-Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Friday, June 26, 2020 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

​There is something special about coins struck in copper. Even well-worn pieces can be beautiful. With few exceptions this cannot be said of coins in nickel, silver, or gold. The often-quoted comment by  William H. Sheldon, Early American Cents, 1949,  has served as an inspiration for many collectors:

Old copper, like beauty, appears to possess a certain intrinsic quality or charm which for many people is irresistible. An experienced dealer in American numismatic materials recently wrote as follows: “Sooner or later, if a collector stays at the business long enough, it is three to one his interest in all the other series will flag and he will focus his attention on the early cents.”

Gold, silver, and even bronze appear to be very much the same wherever you see them. Coins made of these metals become “old money” and “interesting,” like the stuff seen in museums, but copper seems to possess an almost living warmth and a personality not encountered in any other metal. The big cent is something more than old money. Look at a handful of the cents dated before 1815, when they contained relatively pure copper. You see rich shades of green, red, brown, yellow, and even deep ebony; together with blending of these not elsewhere matched in nature save perhaps in autumn leaves. If the light is good (direct sunlight is preferable) you will possibly observe that no two of the coins are of quite the same color.

While Sheldon showcased cents of the years 1793 to 1814, the beauty of copper extends to later years in the large cent series, as well as colonial and early American coins.   

This week I illustrate a selection of copper coins from various series. Enjoy. It may make you want to track down a few for your collection!