Colonial Coins by Type | U.S. Coins by Denomination

Obverse of 1787 Massachusetts Cent         Reverse of 1787 Massachusetts Cent


Rather than follow the example of some of the surrounding states, Massachusetts opened its own Mint in 1787 instead of contracting the coinage out to private concerns.  Although authorized to strike coins of gold, silver, and copper, the Mint only produced copper coins in the Half Cent and One Cent denominations.  All dies for the 1787 (and the earliest of the 1788) coins were made by Joseph Callender, who created open S's in the legends.  Later dies were made by Joseph Perkins, whose S's were closed and looked more like 8's.  The earliest issue (and one believed to be a sort of Pattern coin) is the Transposed Arrows variety of the 1787 Cent.  On this variety only, the arrows held tightly in the eagle's talon appear on the left side of the coin -- all later Massachusetts Coppers show the arrows on the right side of the reverse.  Another characteristic unique to this rare variety is the raised "CENT" on the eagle's shield -- again, all later issues are different and feature an incuse "CENT."  An equally interesting (though, less rare) variety is the "Horned Eagle" One Cent of 1787 where a die break connects the top of the eagle's head to the bottom left of the H of MASSACHUSETTS, making the eagle look like a cross between a bird and a unicorn!  Massachusetts was the only State to produce coins that bore the denomination "HALF CENT."  The legal authority for the coins of Massachusetts ended on January 23, 1789 but would have been superseded anyway a few months later when the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles

1787 Half Cents  
1787 Cents
1788 Half Cents 
1788 Cents