Mark Newby, who came to America from Dublin, Ireland, in November 1681, brought copper pieces believed by numismatists to have been struck in Dublin circa 1663 to 1672. These are called St. Patrick coppers.
The coinage was made legal tender by the General Assembly of New Jersey in May 1682. The legislature did not specify which size piece could circulate, only that the coin was to be worth a halfpenny in trade. Most numismatists believe the larger-size coin was intended. However, as many more farthing-size pieces are known than halfpennies, some believe that the smaller-size piece was meant. Copper coins often circulated in the colonies at twice what they would have been worth in England.
The obverses show a crowned king kneeling and playing a harp. The legend FLOREAT REX (“May the King Prosper”) is separated by a crown. The reverse side of the halfpence shows St. Patrick with a crozier in his left hand and a trefoil in his right, and surrounded by people. At his left side is a shield. The legend is ECCE GREX (“Behold the Flock”). The farthing reverse shows St. Patrick driving away reptiles and serpents as he holds a metropolitan cross in his left hand. The legend reads QUIESCAT PLEBS (“May the People Be at Ease”).
The large-size piece, called by collectors a halfpenny, bears the arms of the City of Dublin on the shield on the reverse; the smaller-size piece, called a farthing, does not. Both denominations have a reeded edge.
The decorative brass insert found on the coinage, usually over the crown on the obverse, was put there to make counterfeiting more difficult. On some pieces this decoration has been removed or does not show. Numerous die variations exist.