New England Silver Coinage (1652-1682)
In the annals of early American numismatics, few series hold as much historical and artistic significance as the New England silver coinage struck between 1652 and 1682. These pieces offer insight into the socio-economic landscape of colonial America and attest to the audacity of New England’s settlers to challenge established norms.
By the mid-17th century, commerce in New England was hampered by a shortage of coinage, given the British Crown’s hesitancy to mint coins for its American colonies. In response, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, operating with a rebellious streak, took matters into its own hands.
The Massachusetts General Court authorized John Hull and Robert Sanderson to establish a mint in Boston in 1652.
Most coins display 1652, but this date does not necessarily signify the exact year of minting. Many believe the Massachusetts Bay Colony continued using this date to sidestep potential repercussions from the British Crown, as minting coins was a royal prerogative.
NE Coinage (1652): The earliest Massachusetts silver coins bore only the letters “NE” on the obverse (for New England) and the denomination on the reverse (III, VI, or XII for 3, 6, or 12 pence). They were crudely made and were in circulation for only a short time.
Willow Tree Coinage (1653-1660): Replacing the NE coinage, the Willow Tree coins were slightly more sophisticated in design. They featured a willow tree on the obverse and the denomination on the reverse. They came in denominations of three-pence, six-pence, and shilling.
Oak Tree Coinage (1660-1667): The oak tree replaced the willow tree on the obverse of these coins with a more detailed and recognizable design. They also produced these coins in three-pence, six-pence, and shilling denominations, adding a two-pence dated 1662.
Pine Tree Coinage (1667-1682): The final series in Massachusetts silver coins was the Pine Tree coinage. The design was more consistent, and the tree was easily recognizable as a pine. These coins were minted in more significant numbers and were the most widespread Massachusetts issue. The pine tree was symbolic of the New England landscape.
Diameters: 27.5 mm to 30 mm