King (reign): Commonwealth (1649 - 1660)
Denomination/metal: Silver Shilling
Date/mint mark: 1652
Type Large Planchet, reversed 'N's on Obv.
Ref. no: Noe 8; Breen 21; Whitman 740
Obv. Pine tree within pellet ring, 'MASATHUSETS IN'. Rev. Date over denomination 'XII', 'N,W ENGLAND AN DOM'.
28mm, 4.48g. AEF - Almost Extremely Fine
Superb example of this early and very rare American Colonial coin. Beautiful lustrous grey patination, well struck and sharp – particularly good example and difficult to better! As early as 1650, the colony of Massachusetts Bay was a commercial success. But an inadequate supply of money made trading difficult. England was not inclined to send gold and silver coins to the colonies, for she too were in short supply. Taking matters into their own hands, Boston authorities allowed two settlers, John Hull and his assitant Robert Sanderson, to set up a mint in the capital, Boston in 1652. The two were soon striking silver coinage - shillings, sixpences, and threepences. Nearly all of the new coins bore the same date: 1652. It is thought that the device, the pine tree, may symbolize one of the Bay Colony's prime exports, pine trees for ships' masts. Massachusetts coinage not only circulated within that colony, but was generally accepted throughout the Northeast of America, becoming a monetary standard in its own right. The majority of the coins were actually struck a few years after the date they bear (up to the 1670s) which poses the question,' why the 1652 date'? Some believe that it was intended to commemorate the founding of the Massachusetts mint, which did occur in 1652. Others believe the choice was a reflection of larger political events. Coinage was a prerogative of the King and in theory, these colonists had no right to strike their own coins, no matter how great their need. However, in 1652, there was no king - King Charles I had been beheaded three years previously, and England was a republic. The people in Massachusetts may have cleverly decided to put that date on their coinage so that they could deny any illegality if, as did happen, there were a re-establishment of the monarchy!