The Mysterious Bar Copper
One of the simplest designs for an American coin is that of the so-called Bar copper—bearing on the obverse USA as a monogram, and on the reverse a series of 13 parallel bars, each representing one of the early states. These began to appear in New York City in 1785, but their origin is not known.
The earliest mention of the Bar copper in documentation of the time appeared on November 12, 1785, in the New Jersey Gazette:
“A new and curious kind of coppers have lately made their appearance in New York. The novelty and bright gloss of which keeps them in circulation. These coppers are in fact similar to Continental buttons without eyes; on the one side are thirteen stripes and on the other U.S.A., as was usual on the soldiers buttons.”
The Bar coppers circulated among the smorgasbord of halfpenny sized coppers that filled the tills of early American merchants of the time.