Rare, Important AU New England Shilling
(1652) SHILNG New England Shilling AU50 PCGS. CAC. Noe III-C,
R.6. Ex: Dwight N. Manley. 72.07 grains. The rarity and
significance of the New England shilling can hardly be overstated.
The NE pieces claim the title of first coins struck in
British America. Few collections, including some of the most
advanced cabinets of Colonial coins, have possessed a
representative of the New England shilling, let alone an example
that has the quality of the present coin. It is fitting that this
piece is auctioned in Boston, where it was minted more than 350
Noe III-C, First Coins Struck in the
British Colonies, Plated in Noe
The New England shillings were struck from three obverse and four reverse dies, which were combined to form six different die marriages. Noe III-C is identified by a diagonal die break southeast from the E on the obverse, and the thickness of the second I in the XII punch is diagnostic for the reverse. Michael Hodder (2005) estimates that he has seen fewer than 20 examples of this variety. In fact, the Noe III-C was absent from some of the most important collections of Colonial coins, including those of C. H. Stearns, John Work Garrett, Richard Picker, and Herbert M. Oechsner. This About Uncirculated specimen ranks among the finest certified at both PCGS and NGC, with only three examples reported in higher grades (6/10).
Massachusetts struck silver coins for three decades, beginning with the NE coins, in open defiance of British authorities. Edmund Randolph, the crown's customs collector in Boston, wrote to London in 1676 that:
"As a marke of soveraignty, they coin mony [sic] ... All the money is stamped with these figures, 1652, that being the era of the common-wealth, wherein they erected themselves into a free state, enlarged their dominions, subjected the adjacent colonies under their obedience, and summoned deputies to sit in their general court; which year is still commemorated on their coins."
Randolph was likely unfamiliar with the NE coins, which were struck in relatively small quantities about 30 years earlier. Hodder argues that the Massachusetts silver coins were not meant to simply combat counterfeits, but were an assertion of the sovereignty and independence of Massachusetts Bay. Indeed, on October 29, 1652, Massachusetts declared itself an independent commonwealth. These coins, of which the NE pieces were the first, mark this historic moment in British-American relations.
John Hull, a prominent local goldsmith, was authorized by the Massachusetts General Court on May 26, 1652, to establish a mint on his property to strike coins of proper alloy and weight. Hull wrote in his diary:
"upon occasion of much counterfeit coin brought into the country, and much loss accruing in that respect (and that did occasion a stoppage of trade), the General Court ordered a mint to be set up, and coin it, bringing it to the sterling standard for fineness; and, for weight, every shilling to be three pennyweight. ... I chose my friend, Robert Sanderson, to be my partner. ... "
Threepence, sixpence, and shillings were struck with a simple, yet distinctive design: the letters NE punched near the edge of the obverse, and Roman numbers signifying the denomination on the reverse. The production of NE coins began almost immediately, but on October 19, 1652--only seven weeks after the first act--the General Court passed legislation that altered the design. It had quickly become apparent that the NE coins were too easy to clip and counterfeit. The extremely short period of production for the NE coins suggests a low mintage and explains their rarity today.
The surfaces of this specimen display pleasing silver-gray toning. Both sides are smooth, with no marks of significance. Although at first glance this piece appears to have several rim bumps, it is likely that the raised areas were caused by shears that cut the planchet from a strip of rolled metal. The weight of this piece, 72.07 grains, corresponds exactly to the 72 grains (three pennyweight) prescribed by the Massachusetts General Court. The planchet is exceptionally well-shaped. This example was plated in Sydney P. Noe's important 1943 monograph on the subject, and he listed it as number 10 in his census.
This piece has a distinguished pedigree outlined below. With so few examples available to collectors, the owner of a New England shilling is certain to become a part of the history of this storied coinage. It appeals not only to collectors of Colonial coins, but to anyone who appreciates the significance of a coin that embodies the revolutionary spirit of the American Colonies. Listed on page 35 of the 2011 Guide Book.
Ex: George J. Bauer; T. James Clarke; F.C.C. Boyd; John J. Ford, Jr. (Stack's, 10/2005), lot 3; The Madison Collection (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 2624.
From Dwight Manley's NE Silver Collection. (NGC ID# 2AR9, PCGS# 13)
View all of [Dwight Manley's NE Silver Collection ]
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