"If you mint it, they will use it". That could have been the motto at the (in)famous mint at Machin's Mills, New York in 1787. Not content to mint coppers for Vermont or Connecticut and make dies for New Jersey, the operators at Machin's Mills turned out quantities of imitation English copper halfpence. The term "counterfeit" cannot be used to describe these halfpence, as they were struck in a recently freed America. Counterfeit coins would have to have been minted in Great Britain; and they were in great numbers!

The late 1780's saw a huge demand for small copper change in America. Many copper coins had been converted by blacksmiths and forges into military items during the Revolution. The opening up of unfettered commerce and new lands in the interior created great demand for halfpenny sized coins. Many counterfeit operations flourished in England. Some of these coins were crude cast copies produced in sand molds. Alloying with lead or pewter reduced the copper content. The "coins" were underweight and crude to the naked eye. Most of these English counterfeit coins stayed in Great Britain but some "immigrated" to America where they undermined commerce and confused the public.

In July 1787, the mint at Machin's Mills began operations striking coins for the Republic of Vermont. This loose affiliation with Reuben Harmon's mint in Rupert, Vermont would last for two years. In order to increase their profit, imitation British halfpence were produced concurrently during that time! Their lightweight halfpence were backdated going back to 1747. Thomas Machin and James Atlee ran the business and a creative bookkeeper/lawyer named James Giles kept several sets of books, no doubt! It is interesting to note that the euphemistic word "hardware" was used to describe the illegal copper coins produced by this mint. The mint was located in Newburgh, New York at Machin's Lake or Pond. It remained open until about 1790 and may have been converted to a gristmill.

With the confusing flood of imitation and counterfeit copper "coins" entering the United States market, it makes sense that George Washington placed a high priority on establishing a Federal mint upon his election in 1789. The coins made at Machin's Mills are a colorful reminder of the "loose " days of the American Confederation.