(1652) New England (NE) Sixpence, AU58
(1652) 6PENCE New England Sixpence AU58 NGC. Noe 1-A, W-10,
Salmon 1-A, R.7. 36.6 grains. Die alignment on this outstanding
example is 180 degrees, known as "coin turn" in modern numismatics.
Thus, the obverse and reverse punches are at opposing points. The
flan is imperfectly round, and a few scattered marks are seen, as
would be expected for a handmade early Massachusetts silver piece.
Pewter-gray dominates the substantial blank surfaces, with some
subtle russet patina present.
Noe 1-A, the Genuine Variety
The Finest Known Original NE Sixpence
The NE pieces represent coin-making in its most basic, and historic, form: punching simple elements into a blank piece of metal to provide the location of origin (NE for New England), and the denomination of value (VI for sixpence or XII for shilling). In The Silver Coins of Massachusetts, Christopher J. Salmon writes:
"New England coinage was well made, with well-executed stamped elements indicating origin and denomination. ... The punches would probably have been hit sharply with a large hand-held hammer with the cold flan placed on the surface of a large steel anvil embedded in a tree trunk, according to standard silversmith methods of the time."
The obverse punch appears to be doubled on the Newman piece, so that it does not match other examples, although the outline of the cartouche is identical on the several known specimens. The obverse punch combines thin and thick elements on Noe 1-A. The top of the reverse punch, consisting of the left and right tops of the V and the top of the I, are level on the 1-A. The other variety, Noe 2-B, has the obverse punch composed of thin elements only, and the top of the I is distinctly below the top of the V.
For many years, colonial Massachusetts and other areas lacked coinage, with other means of exchange in use at that time, including bartering and the use of Native American wampum. People often did not have access to any hard currency, which made it difficult to transact business, including payment of transportation fees, wages, taxes, etc. In 1635, the General Court enacted a law enabling the use of full-bore musket balls in place of farthings, with limitations on how many may be accepted at one time. Standards were established regarding the value of various commodities, including meat, grain, and vegetables for the payment of taxes. The use of commodities was problematic for a number of reasons, including the substitution of inferior products, the difficulties of transporting and storing the material, and the limited shelf life. The fur trade was an important component of the economy; however, by the mid-1640s, the number of animals bearing useful fur was disappearing, with the value of wampum declining during that same period due to the diminished number of furs and the rising population. Trade was increasing between Boston and the West Indies, leading to the importation of other currencies, including counterfeits, clipped coins, and debased Spanish coins minted in Potosi.
Finally, on May 27, 1652, the Massachusetts Bay Mint Act was passed, establishing a mint in Boston. Among the provisions, the act read (original spelling preserved):
"That all persons what soeuer have liberty to bring in vnto the mint howse at Boston all bulljon plate or Spannish Cojne there to be melted & brought to the allay of sterling Silver by John Hull master of the sajd mint and his sworne officers, & by him to be Cojned into 12d : 6d : & 3d peeces which shall be for forme & flatt & square on the sides & stamped on the one side with N E & on the other side wth the figure XIId VId & IIId - [peeces which shall bee] according to the valew of each peece, together with a privy marke - which shall be Appointed euery three months by the Gouernor & known only to him & the sworne officers of the mint."
The coins were originally specified to be square, perhaps in an attempt to have the coinage of the colonies appear inferior to British coins. The initial version of the Act also stated that the Massachusetts silver coins would have less intrinsic value than their British counterparts, by three pence, but that was amended to two pence. Therefore, a Massachusetts shilling would have a value of 12 pence, but would only equate to 10 pence in British money, which would help prevent the money from leaving the Colonies since foreign merchants would not want to accept shillings that were underweight. The Act also made English and Massachusetts coins legal tender, with no one under obligation to accept coins from elsewhere.
A 10-year-old John Hull arrived in Boston with his parents, Robert and Elizabeth, on November 7, 1635, sailing from Bristol, England. His father was a blacksmith, and undoubtedly imparted some of that knowledge to his son. When Hull was 27 years old and had been married to Judith Quincy for five years, he became the "master of the mint."
A diary entry from John Hull ("Diary of John Hull," Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society, Vol. Ill, p. 142) reads:
"After we here arrived, my father settled at Boston; and, after a little keeping at school, I was taken from school to help my father plant corn, which I attended for seven years together; and then, by God's good hand, I fell to learning (by the help of my brother), and to practicing the trade of a goldsmith, and, through God's help, obtained that ability in it, as I was able to get my living by it."
In addition to his roles as goldsmith and mint master, Hull was a very successful merchant. He was extensively involved in the shipping industry, transporting items such as beaver skins, codfish, and lumber products. The General Court designated him treasurer for the colony, a position he occupied from 1676 to 1680.
While the NE coins are the most basic type of coinage, these pieces are clearly the most important coins in the history of the American colonies. There is no question that they were the first produced coins of the Massachusetts series, and they are the first coins actually minted in the New World. Sydney Noe comments:
"The N E shillings and fractions have a very real claim to our interest because they undoubtedly were the first coins struck by the Massachusetts colony and have limits which can be definitely dated from the records."
Noe identified two varieties of the NE sixpence. This Noe 1-A variety is considered the genuine NE sixpence. The second variety, Noe 2-B, is thought to be a contemporary counterfeit, or perhaps a 19th century copy. We are aware of seven examples of Noe 1-A and three examples of Noe 2-B, with two of the former and one of the latter in museum collections. Some past studies have suggested an anomalous weight as the key to identification of the Noe 2-B as a circulating counterfeit, although the weights recorded in our census fail to point out the difference. Several pieces are below the 36 grain standard, and the weight of the Newcomer-Ford example of Noe 2-B is above it. The Eric P. Newman example of Noe 1-A is the closest at 36.6 grains, and almost exactly matches the weight standard. Eric P. Newman's NE sixpence is undoubtedly an original strike of this first truly American coinage. It is the finest surviving example, and its historical importance cannot be overemphasized.
Ex: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.
Census of Noe 1-A NE Sixpence
1. AU58. Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. 36.6 grains. The present coin.
2. XF. Roper Collection (Stack's, 12/1983), lot 8. 33.8 grains.
3. XF. Nelson Clarke (donated 1840); British Museum.
4. VF. Charles Ira Bushnell (Chapman Brothers, 6/1882), lot 141; Edouard Frossard; Garrett Collection; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1980), lot 1201. Noe Plate II, number 3. 33.7 grains.
5. VF. Massachusetts Historical Society; Loye Lauder Collection (William Doyle Galleries, 12/1983), lot 114. Noe Plate II, number 2. 33.4 grains.
6. VF. William B. Osgood Field (7/1946); American Numismatic Society. Noe Plate II, number 1. 31.4 grains.
7. VF, Damaged. Long Island Potato Field; Lillian Rade; Sotheby's (11/1991); Stack's (privately); John "Jack" Royse Collection (Stack's-Bowers, 11/2012), lot 6002. 31.8 grains.
Census of Noe 2-B NE Sixpence
1. Waldo Newcomer; T. James Clarke; John J. Ford, Jr.(Stack's, 10/2005), lot 5. Noe Plate II, number 4. 38.3 grains.
2. Ted Craige Estate (Stack's-Bowers, 1/2013), lot 11001. 31.3 grains.
3. Norweb Family; Smithsonian Institution. (NGC ID# 2AR8, PCGS# 12)
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