Very Rare Near-Mint Lord Baltimore Shilling

    (1659) SHILNG Lord Baltimore Shilling AU58 PCGS. Breen-64, Hodder 1-A, R.6. In the annals of American numismatics, few coins are as steeped in historical significance as the silver issues of Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore and first proprietor of the Maryland Colony. The fourpence, sixpence, and shillings struck under the order of Lord Baltimore in or around the year 1659 are also among the most underappreciated of all Colonial American issues, owing largely to the limited number of examples available to collectors and the lack of accurate information regarding these fascinating pieces of early Americana. In addition to the three silver denominations, a pattern penny, or denarium, was also produced. It is considered uncollectible as only six examples have been traced, per page 38 of the 2008 Guide Book.

    The origins of the first Maryland coinage provide a fascinating insight into the daily life and economy of Colonial America. The first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert (Cecil's father), was a member of the first London Company which received a royal charter to settle Colonial Virginia in 1606. Due to the success of that colony and his close alliance with King Charles I, George was granted a charter that made him Lord Proprietor of a vast expanse of land that would later become the state of Maryland. The cost of the charter is whimsical in nature: two Native American arrows to be delivered to Windsor Castle every Easter. In addition, Lord Baltimore was to pay the King of England one-fifth of all gold and silver found in the new colony, although neither mineral was ever discovered by the settlers. According to William Hand Browne in his 1890 reference George Calvert and Cecilius Calvert: Barons Baltimore of Baltimore, George passed away before the final charter was completed and his son, Cecil, became the second Lord Baltimore via a document executed on June 20, 1632. Interestingly, neither the first nor the second Lord Baltimore ever visited their new land. Instead, Cecil sent his two younger brothers to manage the colony.

    The early settlers developed a thriving tobacco industry during the early years, but by the mid-1650s the prices of other basic commodities began to soar. To rectify the problem, and perhaps to satisfy his ego, Cecil ordered coinage bearing his likeness to be minted in England (the exact minting facility is uncertain) and transported to the Maryland Colony for daily use in commerce. Doing so apparently was against the law, as Lord Baltimore was arrested on October 4, 1659. Most research suggests that the arrest was for the act of coining money or for producing coins that featured his portrait. More recent research by Michael Hodder indicates that the second Lord Baltimore's crime was for actually producing coinage that was intentionally under the weight standard as established by the Tower of London, and for exporting silver coinage since only copper coins could be exported under British law at that time. Contemporary documentation supports this theory. The arrest resulted in the seizing of Lord Baltimore's coinage and dies. It is possible that the legal issues regarding the Maryland coinage are the reason the number of survivors is so low. Or perhaps the small amounts of coins minted were not saved and may have even been melted or otherwise lost to time. The indisputable fact is that the silver issues of Lord Baltimore are highly elusive in all denominations and grades.

    The shilling offered here represents the finest quality available for the type. Even though there is one example certified at a higher grade, a lone PCGS MS61 (11/07), aesthetic qualities and the accuracy of a third party grade opinion become important factors when contemplating the acquisition of a Lord Baltimore shilling. The lovely variegated surfaces of the current piece combine with well struck details that are beautifully centered on a planchet free of distractions. Slight wear on the highpoints justifiably accounts for the assigned grade, which is secondary to overall eye appeal when discussing coins minted during the Colonial American era. With a total of three coins graded AU58 or higher by NGC and PCGS combined, this is obviously a significant piece. Whether or not this is the finest known example hinges on individual opinions and, of course, the possible existence of other Maryland shillings unknown to the numismatic community. Census: 0 in 58, 0 finer (11/07).
    From The Madison Collection. (NGC ID# 2U3L, PCGS# 34)

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2008
    9th-12th Wednesday-Saturday
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