Generally speaking, the term "colonial coins" refers to all pieces struck before the Philadelphia Mint was opened in 1792. Before then, a wide variety of coins circulated in North America. Some colonies issued their own coins; Massachusetts was the very first in 1652. Maryland followed suit shortly thereafter with a small issuance in 1659. Towards the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York began releasing their own coinage and tokens.

Once America declared its independence, Congress immediately focused on creating a national currency. There was considerably debate as to what form the country's coinage should take. The first issue was the Continental "Dollar" of 1776, followed by the Nova Constellatio patterns of 1783 and the Fugio cents of 1787. Although these coins were all struck under the auspices of the federal government, they did not have official legal tender status or a stated denomination.

While Congress spent years trying to decide on a standard coinage system, some of the states released their own money. New York, New Jersey, Vermont and Connecticut all struck copper coins similar in size to the Large Cent. Despite the fact that they were made after 1776, these state-issued pieces are still categorized as "colonials."

Finally, in 1792, Congress passed the Mint Act of 1792. This paved the way for the Philadelphia Mint, the pattern coinage of 1792, and the first official legal-tender issues of 1793. Some private minters continued to strike tokens into the mid-late 1790s, but this practice largely ended by 1800. By the turn of the century, federally-issued United States coins had cemented their place into everyday commerce.

Colonial coins range from extremely common to wildly rare. Many pieces can be found in very respectable condition for just a few hundred dollars. They offer a fantastic combination of historic appeal and value. On the other hand, some of the rarest and most numismatically significant Colonials sell for hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The 1787 Brasher Doubloon, for instance, is one of the most valuable American coins with numerous seven figure auction records.

GreatCollections has sold 792 Colonials in the past 10 years, selling at prices from $26 to $154,688, in grades 1 to 66. Of these, 36 were approved by CAC.

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