Struck out of silver and nearly plain, the New England Shilling has just a simple NE impressed at top of the obverse, for New England. The reverse displays the Shilling denomination XII (12 Pence was equal to 1 Shilling).
America’s first coin comes home
Littleton Coin Purchases the 1st Massachusetts Bay Colony Silver Shilling
LITTLETON An extremely rare New England Shilling recently returned home to New England when New Hampshire-based Littleton Coin Company acquired it for $253,000 during a Stack’s auction October 18, 2005.
“I was surprised we had the winning bid, and very excited to get this historic coin,” said David Sundman, Littleton Coin Company president. “To me, this New England Shilling represents the seeds of the American Revolution… it’s real history you can hold in your hand!”
Offered as Lot #1 in the Stack’s sale, the extremely rare New England Shilling sold for the hammer price of $220,000 with a 15% commission, totaling $253,000. John Kraljevich of American Numismatic Rarities in Wolfeboro, NH bid for the coin on Littleton’s behalf. The rarity will become part of the Littleton collection, and will eventually be displayed at coin exhibits around the country.
One of only 5 known!
Minted in 1652 just over 20 years after the Puritans landed, the coin is one of five surviving examples of the first coin struck in America. Experts have been able to determine its date of issue and first-coin status because it is from the earliest die variety.
Purchased from the John J. Ford, Jr. Collection of Massachusetts Silver Coinage, the finest ever assembled, this earliest variety was missing from many of the greatest collections. It eluded the Garrett, Hain and Norweb collections, to name a few.
One has not been available for over 50 years, and this very coin has not appeared at public auction since 1912. It was previously owned by famous American collector F.C.C. Boyd, who paid $167.50 for it in 1938. It was also owned by legendary Chicago collector Virgil Brand, DeWitt Smith, Waldo Newcomer, and Sterling P. Groves.
Maine and New Hampshire once part of Massachusetts Bay Colony
Settled by the Puritans in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Colony grew to encompass portions of New Hampshire and Maine. As the colony’s influence grew, it became a principal region for trade in the New World, and trade required silver coins. In 1646, when the Bay Colony was criticized, the Massachusetts General Court responded,” Our allegiance binds us not to the laws of England any longer…”
The idea that the colony saw itself as separate from England seemed to be confirmed when it began to strike coins a right not granted by the English Crown. Coinage was an age-old symbol of power and authority, and by issuing its own, the colony appeared to proclaim its independence.
In May 1652, the court authorized Boston minter John Hull to strike silver coins for the colony. Coining began in June or July of that year. New England coins were cut from strips of silver, and with a punch were impressed with NE at the top on the obverse and XII at the opposite end on the reverse. The squares of silver were transformed into circles using shears. Because of its simplicity, this coinage could be easily clipped. So about 7 weeks after Hull’s mint opened, the court passed a law changing the coin’s design and ending the historic New England coinage America’s first! The design was changed to a Willow Tree and the date 1652 added. Subsequent designs included Oak and Pine Trees.
Because “hard money” was such a scarce commodity, and Massachusetts Bay’s economy was flourishing, a law was passed to prevent the export of more than 20 Shillings worth of silver coins. The 1654 law called for “searchers,” or border guards, who searched people, their packages, trunks and chests to prevent the loss of good silver coins.
The silver Shilling’s return home coincides with Littleton Coin Company’s Rare Coin Gallery, a recently launched catalogue offering rare one-of-a-kind coins, so this is a timely addition. Littleton Coin Company, founded by Maynard Sundman in 1945, has been helping people hold history in their hands for 60 years.