No matter what your hobby or interest may be, we all have those elusive, much-sought-after finds, goals, catches (think fishing), or items that we are hoping to someday cross off our personal bucket lists. For me, in my hobby of metal detecting, this was always the New Jersey state copper coin. Why the New Jersey “copper”? Well, I was born, bred, and still reside in New Jersey—a place for which I hold an immense amount of pride. Couple that with the fact that, as most people with any knowledge of history can attest, New Jersey (wedged between the major colonial and wartime-contested cities of New York and Philadelphia) played a pivotal role during colonial and Revolutionary times, even earning the title of “the cockpit of the Revolution” because of the amount of battles, skirmishes, and Revolutionary traffic that occurred here.
Before the U.S. won its hard-fought victory over British rule, each state-colony produced its own coinage. “State coppers” are harder to find than other period coins, largely because they weren’t made for very long and they competed (amid a colonial coinage shortage) with other foreign legal tender, like British, Spanish, Irish, French, and other imported coinage (to be sure, I had found coinage from all of these countries many times over before I found my first state copper). So, when a detectorist finds a state copper of any kind, it’s a rarer, special find to say the least.
Well, after five years in the hobby, and countless hours searching colonial properties with a NJ copper coin foremost on my mind, my moment finally arrived. One late-December day, as I was scouring a new field, I got a very strong, fast-repeatable tone, which most detectorists know is indicative of an object very close (if not on) the surface of the ground. Expecting it to be something modern due to its minimal depth, I scraped away no more than a ¼ inch divot around the object and easily located it. Raising the item for closer inspection, I could see it was a coin of some sort, but it was badly corroded and somewhat jaggedly misshapen. I put it in my finds pouch and kept searching. At this point, I didn’t even consider what it could be likely because its condition did not foretell a future identification.
Later at home, after a slight cleaning, I was extremely excited to see a prominent centered shield on one side and I knew (hoped!) it could be a New Jersey copper, but was it? Tilting the coin in different directions, one angle revealed what I was sure was the word “UNUM” to the right of the shield. Comparing my coin to Google images of a New Jersey copper, I was now almost positive I had my bucket-lister in hand. A short time after posting my find to a Facebook colonial-era relics page, I had the confirmation I was hoping for! It sure is in “ugly” shape, but its beauty is found in what it means to me.