George Clinton and the New York Cent of 1787: A Numismatic Treasure with Revolutionary Echoes


Portrait by Ezra Ames, 1814

Who Was George Clinton?

George Clinton, born on July 26, 1739, was a seminal figure in the founding of the United States. Not only was he a brigadier general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, but Clinton also notably served as the first Governor of New York and later as Vice President under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. His influence was particularly felt during the critical period when the U.S. Constitution was drafted. Clinton was a prominent Anti-Federalist, apprehensive about a strong central government, and an advocate for states’ rights, reflecting the tension and discourse of the era.

The 1787 New York Cent: Historical Significance

George Clinton New York Cent 1787The New York Cent, minted in 1787, carries this rich political and historical context with it. Struck in copper, it is an artifact from the Confederation Period – a time when the United States faced economic turmoil under the Articles of Confederation, including a lack of a uniform national currency.

Many states took the initiative to mint their own coins before the establishment of the U.S. Mint in 1792. The New York Cent, featuring the likeness of George Clinton, was among these early state-minted coins. By placing Clinton’s image on the coin, New York aimed to highlight its pride in its governor and to solidify his importance in the state’s and the nation’s history. The coin served as a medium of exchange and as a token commemorating one of the state’s most prominent figures. 

Collectible Value

The 1787 New York Cent is a treasure from a collector’s standpoint. Its value is not merely monetary but also historical. Coins from this period were often made in crude conditions, and many have not survived the centuries.  This coin’s value can vary significantly based on its condition, rarity, and provenance, with well-preserved specimens commanding prices in the range of $30,000 to $500,000 at auction.

Historical Numismatic Legacy

The 1787 New York Cent, with its association with George Clinton, is a reminder of a time when the United States was a burgeoning experiment. Each coin is a piece of history, symbolic of a new nation’s debates, struggles, and triumphs. For collectors, they offer more than just a tangible link to the past; they provide insight into the very fabric of America’s identity.

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