American Colonial Coins date back as early as 1652 when the majority of American colonies were ruled by Great Britain. King Charles I of England had been in charge up until 1649, when he was executed for high treason. Prior to his death, King Charles would not allow most of the colonial governments to produce coins because he did not deem it necessary. When the King was eventually beheaded, the leaders of Massachusetts Bay decided to put an end to the coin shortage in order to make their economy thrive.
In 1652, the government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed legislation authorizing the building of a mint in Boston. The land on which the mint was built on was owned by John Hull, a goldsmith who ran the facility and made the coins, along with his companion Robert Saunderson. Massachusetts Bay became the first colony to establish a mint and produce silver coins for use in daily commerce.
The very first coins made at the mint in Boston were stamped with NE and known as New England Shillings. Other later and desirable Colonial Coins include the Willow Tree Coin, Oak Tree Coin and Pine Tree Coin, all produced in the 1600s. Now over 300 years old, it comes as no surprise that these coins are highly sought after for their historical appeal and have become extremely rare finds in the modern world.
Early Colonial Coins
New England Shillings were not only the first coins struck at the mint in Boston but also the first to made on American soil. Produced from 1652 to 1660, New England Shillings were stamped with nothing other than the letters NE on the obverse. The reverse showed either the Roman numeral III, VI or XII to represent the coin’s 3, 6 or 12 pence value. As the coins only featured a couple of simple design elements, they were easily counterfeited and many traders questioned whether they were real silver pieces.
After realizing that the New England Shillings were easy to counterfeit, the mint decided to modify the coins by adding more design elements. A willow tree was placed on the obverse, along with a ring of beads and the colony name MASATHVSETS IN. The reverse still displayed the Roman numerals; however, the date 1652 was added and used on all the coins struck until 1660.
These Colonial Coins were first minted in 1652 and remained the same until 1660, when Oak Tree Coins replaced the Willow Tree Coinage. Oak Tree Coins were produced for only eight years and followed by the Pine Tree design, struck from 1667 to 1682.
The New England Shilling, as well as the Willow Tree Coins, Oak Tree Coins and Pine Tree Coins are extremely rare and highly sought by collectors. There are no records to show how many coins of each design were minted in the 1600s but we do know that these early Colonial Coins are important pieces of history.
Foreign Colonial Coins
Before the American Patriots in the thirteen colonies won independence from Great Britain, they used British and Spanish coins to facilitate trade. Having said that, British coins rarely circulated in the colonies, so they were forced to use Spanish coins, such as the Spanish Dollar or “Pieces of Eight” as it was often called then. Valued at eight reals, the Spanish Dollar became one of the most widely circulating coins throughout the colonies, as did the fractional Spanish coinage. These coins remained legal tender and continued to circulate for much of the 17th and 18th centuries.
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