How many of the Massachusetts Shillings were issued illegally?

ZoinsZoins Posts: 19,986 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited June 9, 2019 9:23PM in U.S. Coin Forum

The history of the Massachusetts 3 & 6 pence and shillings is fascinating. Minting silver and gold coinage was prohibited by the crown but King Charles was overthrown and replaced by the Commonwealth of England from 1649 to 1660. It was during this time the colonists in Massachusetts decided to mint their own coins, struck by John Hull and Robert Sanderson, two Massachusetts settlers. The crown was restored in 1660 while the coins continued to be issued until 1682 when the mint was closed by the government. It was common knowledge that Massachusetts was violating the royal edict from 1660 to 1682 but by backdating all coins to 1652 when it was legal, they avoided offending the crown.

Is it known which coins were struck after 1660 and thus "illegal"?

Of note, the pine tree symbolized the pine trees Massachusetts exported to build ship masts.

Here's an oak tree shilling from Dwight N. Manley's collection to get the discussion started:

Comments

  • 291fifth291fifth Posts: 17,882 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I don't know the answer to "how many" but here is how I would develop an estimate.

    1. How many coins could be struck from a set of dies from that period?

    2. How many die pairs are known for all the issues of that period?

    From there make an estimate of the number of each type struck.

    I'm guessing that a book has already been done that can help with the die pair question and another source has probably estimated die life for hammered coins of that era.

    All glory is fleeting.
  • PerryHallPerryHall Posts: 37,106 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Apparently all were illegal. It just took some time for the crown to find out what they were doing and to tell them to cease and desist. I guess they thought is was easier to get forgiveness than to get permission.

  • ZoinsZoins Posts: 19,986 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @PerryHall said:
    Apparently all were illegal. It just took some time for the crown to find out what they were doing and to tell them to cease and desist. I guess they thought is was easier to get forgiveness than to get permission.

    Well, there was no crown when issuance started as King Charles I had been executed and it took until 1660 for the crown to reassert themselves in England.

  • jmski52jmski52 Posts: 19,856 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've wanted a Pine Tree Shilling ever since I read one of the Hardy Boys episodes that mentioned it, I believe it was "The Secret of the Old Mill".

    Q: Are You Printing Money? Bernanke: Not Literally

    I knew it would happen.
  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 28,187 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I agree with @PerryHall. ALL of them were illegal. As the mintage in the later years, who knows?

    There was probably some cannibalism. The Willow Tree coins were very poorly made, and a lot of them were probably melted to make the Oak and Pine Tree coins. Maybe one could look at the estimated number of survivors and apply the “1% rule” to guess the mintage.

    At any rate, the Oak and large planchet Pine Tree coins were struck on a rocker press. That left them with a wavey planchet, which would have worn unevenly while in circulation with a resulting shorter useful life.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible.
  • PerryHallPerryHall Posts: 37,106 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Like most rare coins, the mintage is not really relevant to collectors. It's the number that survived that matters.

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 2,849 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I want to believe that someone kept a ledger noting their minting successes and failures. Or a record of accomplishment in a diary or business correspondence. Peace Roy

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 28,187 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 10, 2019 3:24AM

    @Namvet69 said:
    I want to believe that someone kept a ledger noting their minting successes and failures. Or a record of accomplishment in a diary or business correspondence. Peace Roy

    There were probably records, but if they survived, they are yet to be discovered. Hull and Sanderson may have kept them secret or destroyed them. One of the problems that some people had with Hull was that they were jealous of the fact that he was making a profit from the mint. While Hull claimed that he was barely making expenses, others said he was getting rich from the operation.

    In truth, Hull had his hands in a lot of money making industries which made him one of the wealthiest men in the colonies at the time. Hull was involved in farming and land ownership, ship building and shipping, gold (Silver) smithing, timber, and international trade. The mint was only one of his ventures, and Sanderson was responsible for the day to day operations.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible.
  • rickoricko Posts: 70,003 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting question, but unlikely to find an answer that can be substantiated by authentic records. I would just like to find one.... and it is possible where I live, since there are still stone houses from that period... Cheers, RickO

  • ZoinsZoins Posts: 19,986 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 10, 2019 6:28AM

    @BillJones said:
    I agree with @PerryHall. ALL of them were illegal.

    Why would the ones minted when the the crown was overthrown be illegal?

  • JBKJBK Posts: 6,055 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Zoins said:

    @BillJones said:
    I agree with @PerryHall. ALL of them were illegal.

    Why would the ones minted when the the crown was overthrown be illegal?

    I assume (but do not know for sure) that the thinking would be that the overthrow of the King was "illegal", so all the coinage made in violation of the King's laws was illegal. Had the royal family never been restored, that would have been different.

    As a side note, the British consider the date of American independence to be 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed, while we focus on 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Two different views of the same event.

  • ZoinsZoins Posts: 19,986 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JBK said:

    @Zoins said:

    @BillJones said:
    I agree with @PerryHall. ALL of them were illegal.

    Why would the ones minted when the the crown was overthrown be illegal?

    I assume (but do not know for sure) that the thinking would be that the overthrow of the King was "illegal", so all the coinage made in violation of the King's laws was illegal. Had the royal family never been restored, that would have been different.

    As a side note, the British consider the date of American independence to be 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed, while we focus on 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Two different views of the same event.

    Perhaps it’s better to ask how many coins were minted when the monarch was disposed.

    I also don't think the British really thought America was free until the War of 1812.

  • JBKJBK Posts: 6,055 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Zoins said:

    Perhaps it’s better to ask how many coins were minted when the monarch was disposed.

    Good idea. That avoids the semantics.

    I also don't think the British really thought America was free until the War of 1812.

    I am sure that is true! They weren't done with us until the second defeat. ;)

  • MattTheRileyMattTheRiley Posts: 775 ✭✭✭✭

    I don't know the answer to your question, I am just here to drool over the coins! That is a beautiful Oak Tree Shilling!

  • ashelandasheland Posts: 14,176 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great thread!

  • johnny9434johnny9434 Posts: 20,100 ✭✭✭✭✭

    interesting thread indeed, I like

  • 1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 6,357 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I hope mine our legal :smile:

    Successful transactions with : MICHAELDIXON, Manorcourtman, Bochiman, bolivarshagnasty, AUandAG, onlyroosies, chumley, Weiss, jdimmick, BAJJERFAN, gene1978, TJM965

    Bad transactions with : nobody to date

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 28,187 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Zoins said:

    @BillJones said:
    I agree with @PerryHall. ALL of them were illegal.

    Why would the ones minted when the the crown was overthrown be illegal?

    Cromwell was a “Lord Protector.” He got there because he overthrew the king and later hand him beheaded. There have been other “Protectors” in British history. They were also called regents. They ran the government when the king was too young to rule himself. That did not negate the royal prerogative with respect to coinage. The British government still had the exclusive legal right to execute the coinage or assign the right to official entities.

    The Massachusetts Bay Colony had not been granted any rights to start producing its own coinage. They took the right based on a claim that they could take it because there was no King of England at the time. The fact that Cromwell was sympathetic to their religious movement helped.

    Still the coinage was not authorized by Cromwell’s government and was not really legal, ever.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible.
  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 27,266 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The Redbook gives the date ranges that the different types were issued.

    The 1662 two pence was certainly issued after the Restoration.

    One theory I like is that the "1652" date represents the year that the coinage was first authorized by the colony. They added an authorization for a two pence in 1662, and used that date on it.

    ... --- .-.. --- -. --. --..-- .- -. -.. - .... .- -. -.- ... ..-. --- .-. .- .-.. .-.. - .... . ..-. .. ... .... ..__.
  • WillieBoyd2WillieBoyd2 Posts: 3,880 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 10, 2019 6:27PM

    Interesting article.

    Apparently the colonists sent "gifts" to the king and the royal authorities put off enforcing the law.

    :)

    https://www.brianrxm.com
    The Mysterious Egyptian Magic Coin
    Coins in Movies and Coins on Television
    The 1949 San Francisco Mexico Peso Restrikes


  • ZoinsZoins Posts: 19,986 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 11, 2019 7:37AM

    @BillJones said:

    @Zoins said:

    @BillJones said:
    I agree with @PerryHall. ALL of them were illegal.

    Why would the ones minted when the the crown was overthrown be illegal?

    Cromwell was a “Lord Protector.” He got there because he overthrew the king and later hand him beheaded. There have been other “Protectors” in British history. They were also called regents. They ran the government when the king was too young to rule himself. That did not negate the royal prerogative with respect to coinage. The British government still had the exclusive legal right to execute the coinage or assign the right to official entities.

    The Massachusetts Bay Colony had not been granted any rights to start producing its own coinage. They took the right based on a claim that they could take it because there was no King of England at the time. The fact that Cromwell was sympathetic to their religious movement helped.

    Still the coinage was not authorized by Cromwell’s government and was not really legal, ever.

    A slight difference between Oliver Cromwell and a traditional Lord Protector, is that while traditional Lord Protectors were running the government for the king, Oliver wasn't. According to Commonwealth declaration, which may have nullified the crown’s laws, there was no King or House of Lords to represent!

    Act Declaring and Constituting the People of England to be a Commonwealth and Free-State
    Be it Declared and Enacted by this present Parliament and by the Authority of the same, That the People of England, and of all the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging, are and shall be, and are hereby Constituted, Made, Established, and Confirmed to be a Commonwealth and Free-State: And shall from henceforth be Governed as a Commonwealth and Free-State, by the Supreme Authority of this Nation, The Representatives of the People in Parliament, and by such as they shall appoint and constitute as Officers and Ministers under them for the good of the People, and that without any King or House of Lords.

  • SweetpieSweetpie Posts: 293 ✭✭✭

    Interesting thread indeed!

    On a sidenote, does that mean if this "coin" ever surfaced in England, it might get confiscated by the goverment?

    ;)

  • acsbacsb Posts: 80 ✭✭✭

    @jmski52 said:
    I've wanted a Pine Tree Shilling ever since I read one of the Hardy Boys episodes that mentioned it, I believe it was "The Secret of the Old Mill".

    Close. The Melted Coins. Chapter three.

  • TommyTypeTommyType Posts: 4,374 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The "legality" issue is probably like a lot of legal questions: Until and unless you have a actual legal RULING from some court, or legislature, or King, or whatever....It's possible to have opinions in complete opposition to each other, with both having claims of being correct.

    Since it's now, what, 350 years later, I think you just have to punt on it. ;)

    Easily distracted Type Collector
  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 28,187 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Sweetpie said:
    Interesting thread indeed!

    On a sidenote, does that mean if this "coin" ever surfaced in England, it might get confiscated by the goverment?

    ;)

    It could have been confiscated when you tried to take it out of Massachusetts. As part of the authorization for the Mass silver, the General Court limited the amount of these coins that you could take out of the colony. I think was 20 shillings. If you tried to take more, the colony could take it from you and “hold it until you returned.” Good luck getting it back when you did return.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible.
  • lkeneficlkenefic Posts: 4,729 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very interesting history! Thanks all!!

    Collecting ... dust

    Successful BST transactions with: SilverEagles92; Ahrensdad; Smitty; GregHansen; Lablade; Mercury10c; copperflopper; whatsup; KISHU1; scrapman1077, crispy, canadanz, smallchange, robkool, Mission16, ranshdow, ibzman350, Fallguy, Collectorcoins, SurfinxHI.
  • The tuppence series of 1662 are amongst the rarest, after NE's and Willows.
    The 1662s are thought to have been minted in that year, and the NEs in 1652,
    Willows, oaks and pines seem to have been struck sporadically rather than sequentially,
    for example, some Oak trees seem to have struck after the Pine Tree series was introduced
    The Boston Mints output varied greatly over time because it depended on
    individuals delivering silver to exchange for struck coinage.

    Desire is oft more pleasant than acquisition.

  • @BillJones said:
    I agree with @PerryHall. ALL of them were illegal. As the mintage in the later years, who knows?

    There was probably some cannibalism. The Willow Tree coins were very poorly made, and a lot of them were probably melted to make the Oak and Pine Tree coins. Maybe one could look at the estimated number of survivors and apply the “1% rule” to guess the mintage.

    At any rate, the Oak and large planchet Pine Tree coins were struck on a rocker press. That left them with a wavey planchet, which would have worn unevenly while in circulation with a resulting shorter useful life.

    As to 'How Many?', the only records remaining are from October.1671- August 1680, this period shows a coinage of
    11,162 tr oz, equal to 74777 shillings, in a total of 204 operational days over approx 9 years.
    Let's just say that 50% would be full shillings: = 37,388
    25% 6p = 37,388
    25% 3p = 74,777
    , = 149,544 coins for approx 9 years.
    X 3.3 (30/9)
    = 493,528 (30 year output)
    / 1% rule
    = about 5,000 survivors, seems low.

    Salmon, in 'The Silver Coins of Massachusetts' postulates that both NE's and Willows were hammer struck, with good evidence.
    The General court ordered the NE's discontinued, and implementation the tree designs, having no coining press,
    the Boston mint began coining with the tech they had available from the NE's, (Hammers) until presses could be imported

    For large planchet Pines and most Oaks, some type of rocker press seems to have been used.
    Rocker presss require a highly skilled operator to produce 'nice', coins. The multiple adjustments are critical, and they employ curved dies, this causes the 'S' bend., and many examples appear stretched or smeared due to maladjustment.
    A long strip of silver would be fed though it, striking multiple coins on the strip, each would then be cut out oversized with shears and clipped down to proper weight, quite labor intensive, and making each coin unique.

    The Oak Tree Thruppence I've seen appear to be struck on a screw press from prepared planchets, as with the small planchet pines.

    The production timeline of the Mass Silvers is sporadic as to manufacture style and type, it seems a case of
    'Run what ya got' .

    Desire is oft more pleasant than acquisition.

  • The 'S' Bend on Noe-1 large Pine tree Shilling, terminal rev die state.

    Desire is oft more pleasant than acquisition.

Sign In or Register to comment.