By John Hart, Jr., Director, Sullivan Museum and History Center
Before the United States enacted the National Banking Act of 1863, it was common for states to issue their own currency. Having gained its independence in 1777, Vermont needed to ensure its citizens had a common currency to define them from the bordering states of New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The fledgling republic began minting its own coins, today known as Vermont coppers.
The first copper coins were minted in 1785. One side featured a plow against the Green Mountains. The other had rays of light emerging from a central eye, surrounded with the phrase, Stella Quarta Decima, which means “14th Star,” indicating the republic’s desire to become admitted to the United States. In 1791 Vermont was, indeed, declared the 14th state.
The Coinage Act of 1792 established the dollar as the basic currency for the United States, but many states and banks continued to produce their own currency until 1863.
Today, Vermont coppers can be found at coin shows, antique stores, and sometimes in the ground. Quality metal detectors allow people to explore fields or along the foundation of a house to find lost treasures such as the coins currently on view in our 200 Years—200 Objects exhibit.