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Massachusetts Silver Coins

Massachusetts Silver Coins (1652-1682)

Colonial and post-colonial coinage in the Americas formed a varied and unique patchwork, mixing with other media of exchange to create a huge variety in commerce. Through this time period, foreign coins and colonial issues mixed with wampum, grain, barter and privately-minted tokens for a chaotic system of trade that did not standardize till far later.

Massachusetts Coin Design

The history of early United States coins embraces a wide variety of money, not just coins minted within the United States itself. World coins saw common usage across the whole of the United States, and major denominations from countries like the Netherlands, France, and Spain were widely circulated through the 1850s. British coins were commonplace, not surprising considering the American colonies were under British rule. The bulk of coinage was English crowns, shilling and pence as well as the Spanish piece of eight (which laid the groundwork for the Silver dollar).

Foreign coins were not the only circulating currency in the New World. Private issues were also available, and there were circulating coins created by some of the states (most notably Massachusetts, but also Maryland and New Jersey). There were also some issues created under British royal patent in the American colonies. Though the French did not own territory in the area of the British colonies of the time, they too had coins made by royal patent in the New World, and these also circulated.

Massachusetts was authorized by the Crown to make its own coinage. Wampum had been the first medium of exchange, authorized in 1637 by the colonial government. Trade in kind like corn and bullets was common as well. Silver and Gold tended to go back to England. Wampum was used until 1661, but standard coinage was passed by the Massachusetts General Court in 1652.

These first coins came in threepence, sixpence and shilling sizes with little but a round Silver planchet and a small mark. Mintmaster John Hull took care of the striking in Boston. These rudimentary coins were vulnerable to clipping and counterfeiting, so they were replaced by the Willow Tree, Oak Tree and Pine Tree designs in succession.

Each die at this time was individually made, and thus coins can be distinguished by the die used to create them. All bore the date 1652, though they were struck from 1653 to 1682. After 1682 this coinage was abandoned.

After the Revolutionary War, official U.S. coinage began to make its way out into the colonies. But these coins were used alongside foreign coins, tokens and other issues for decades to come.

Historical Significance

These metallic currencies were the first to be issued in the English part of the Americas. The Spanish got in ahead of the English with their Mexico City mint, established in 1535. These are important coins in U.S. history and the history of the New World colonies.

Numismatic Value

These coins are expensive, rare and highly prized. They are also highly individual. Because of the handmade dies, coins can be collected in types based on the die that was used for the strike.

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