EAST RUPERT, Vt.
“We are standing near the site of Vermont’s one and only official mint. We’re going to go visit Jon Mathewson, Curator of the Dorset History Museum, and we’re also going to take a look at a building that could have possibly been the mint,” explained Perkins.
“Vermont in 1777 decided to go its own way and become a republic. They needed their own money. By 1785, that need was very strong and so they allowed Reuben Harmon of Rupert, Vermont to make coins. He did it from 1785 to 1788 and there were two designs. The first design was really cool. I really like it. The second design, because they realized they had to fit in more with other coins, was just some unknown man in his profile,” said Mathewson.
“When I think about a mint, I immediately go to one of the U.S. mints I’ve visited which is all this machinery stamping out huge numbers of coins. I assume that’s not how this mint operated in Rupert, Vermont?” asked Perkins.
“No, actually it is. But, only in 18th Century style. Not quite as big because they didn’t need to make as many coins’ but, they did have multiple pressings of multiple molds for the coins and there was a lot of smelting going on in there,” answered Mathewson.
“As a matter of fact, there’s a barn in North Rupert, Vermont right now [where] they’ve done the metallurgic analysis of the beams and found trace elements of the smelted metals in the beams. That’s how they know the Harmon Mint building is still standing,” said Mathewson.
‘A lot of the coin makers who helped Reuben Harmon out came up from Connecticut. And as you can well imagine, if you’re making coins, if you’re making money, you’re going to get some ne’er-do-wells. And the really interesting story and the unexamined part of the Harmon Mint story is what happened to these convicted counterfeiters after the Harmon Mint went out of business. They had legitimate work for awhile. They had been convicted of counterfeiting in Connecticut. You could tell because they would be branded with the letter ‘c’ and have their ears chopped off a little bit. So, you know you can’t really hide that too well. But there are stories of them counterfeiting in the hills of Rupert into the 1800s,” concluded Mathewson.
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