coins are history's Blog

09 Aug 2020

Colonial coins of America. Part 1.

Coins-United States Colonial | coins are history

The year is 1607. King James has finally made a colony in the New World in what is now Jamestown, Virginia. This would later become the colony of Virginia. Though new colonies are established after this including the Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Rhode Island Colony and the Connecticut colony there is no coinage yet made in the New World. The execution of King Charles in 1649 led to the short lived republic in England. With this going on, the English did not send their colonies needed coinage such as French Ecus, Dutch "Lion Dollars," English Crowns and Spanish Pieces of Eight. In 1652, the colonists solved this problem when the Massachusetts Bay Colony opened a mint in Boston. The first type of coins they minted were what numismatists know today as "NE Style" pieces. These issues were struck in three pence, six pence and shilling or 12 pence. Today these pieces are extremely scarce being that the three pence is unique, there are eight known six pence examples, and the shillings are hard to come by. Due to the simplicity of this design with simply the letters NE and on the reverse- the Roman numerals III for 3, VI for 6, or XII for 12- these coins were very easy to counterfeit. So from 1653 to 1660 they switched to the harder to counterfeit "Willow Tree" coins. All of these coins however are both the same denomination and interestingly enough bear the same dates as the "NE Style" pieces. The obverse of these pieces show the "Willow Tree" and the words "In Masathusets." On the obverse there is the date of 1652, the denomination in pence of the coin and the words "New England." (On six pence and shilling pieces there is ano and andom which both translate to year.) Some people say that these pieces are rarer than the "NE Style" pieces which makes sense given that the "Willow Tree" shilling is more valuable than the "NE Style" shilling. As for the three pence and six pence there are 3 known and 14 known respectively. In 1660 the mint switched over to the "Oak Tree" pieces. Here we add on the two pence pieces as well as the three pence, six pence and shilling pieces we have already discussed. The major difference in this series is a switch in "trees" The two pence coin is the only coin in this series which does not have 1652 as a date instead it has 1662. Also, the two pence coin has two major varieties, the "2" in 1662 is small on some coins yet large on others. The three pence coin has two major varieties as well being the "in" on obverse and no "in" on the reverse. On the six pence coin there are also two varieties one with the word "in" on the obverse and the other with it on the reverse. For the shilling there are four major varieties the word "in" on both the left side and the bottom of the reverse, as well as the word "andom" with no "m" at the end. There is also one variety in which the tree is much more straight up and it almost looks like it is thorny. This is called the "Spiny Tree." "Oak Tree" coins are much less expensive than "NE Style" and "Willow Tree" coins but still fairly expensive. The "Oak Tree" pieces were replaced in 1667 by the "Pine Tree" pieces. For this design they dropped the two pence piece. The three pence, six pence, and the shilling have the same two varieties- the no pellets at trunk and pellets at trunk. This variety is recognized by looking at the stump of the tree and seeing if there are defined lines coming out from under it. There are three more varieties for the shilling. These are the no "h" in "Masathusets", the reversed "n" in "England" and the small planchet variety which is 1 to 9 millimeters smaller in diameter in relation to the regular large planchet. These of the four of the Massachusetts silver types that I have discussed are the most common. Next time, I will talk about coins issued for Maryland.

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