The state of New Jersey has the distinction of being the first to use the national motto E PLURIBUS UNUM (one from many) on this coin. As with several other states, New Jersey experienced a constant shortage of small change at the close of the Revolution. Under the Confederation, states were permitted to mint their own coins. On June 1, 1786 the New Jersey legislature authorized the production of a copper coin that would circulate at the rate of 15 to a shilling.

By the fall of 1786, Walter Mould, Thomas Goadsby and Albion Cox had located two buildings for their mint. Daniel Marsh was the owner of a grist mill and saw mill in Elizabethtown, (present day Rahway) New Jersey. He also happened to be one of the state legislators who sponsored the bill. In a further conflict of interest, Marsh leased the mills to the partners for a period of seven years, even though their coinage contract was for two years! The two locations were about a mile apart on the Rahway River. Apparently one site prepared the planchets or blanks, and the other did the actual minting of the coins.

Matthias Ogden of Elizabethtown was the bondholder who provided surety for their lease. At some point Mould had a disagreement with Goadsby and Cox. The state allowed Mould to divide the coinage contract. He then set up his own mint near Morristown, New Jersey in January 1787, minting coppers for the state. Mould would subcontract some minting to John Bailey of New York. A silversmith, Bailey was a partner in a minting enterprise with Ephraim Brasher, of Brasher Doubloon fame. He was also one of the finest American sword makers of the late 18th century; making a sword for George Washington. His 1788 dated coppers featured a mint mark in the shape of a fox.

After being jailed for one year for nonpayment of various debts, Cox along with Goadsby, lost their contract to Matthias Ogden in June 1788. Ogden promptly took possession of most, if not all, of the minting equipment and set up another mint at his house in Elizabethtown. Ogden minted coins to fulfill the original contract with the state.

The “Serpent Head” variety was a production counterfeit probably made by a Mr. Hatfield in the Elizabethtown area. The infamous Machin’s Mills mint in Newburgh, New York probably made dies for the “Camel Head” variety.

The obverse features a plow beneath a horse’s head facing right with the legend “NOVA CAESAREA” (as on the state coat of arms) and the date. Caesarea is the Roman name for the Island of Jersey in the English Channel. The reverse of the copper depicts a American heraldic shield with the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” As stated before, this is the first time that an American coin used what was to become the national motto of the United States. With a diverse mintage history of at least four different mints, both authorized and unauthorized, the New Jersey Coppers offer a glimpse back into a time of fiscal uncertainty, subcontracting and counterfeiting. Late 18th Century American free enterprise at its best!