Pine Tree Shilling, United States, 1652

As early as 1650, the colony of Massachusetts Bay was a commercial success. But an inadequate supply of money put its future development in jeopardy. England was not inclined to send gold and silver coins to the colonies, for they were in short supply in the mother country.
Taking matters into their own hands, Boston authorities allowed two settlers, John Hull and Robert Sanderson, to set up a mint in the capital in 1652. The two were soon striking silver coinage-shillings, sixpences, and threepences. Nearly all of the new coins bore the same date: 1652.
This was the origin of America's most famous colonial coin, the pine tree shilling. The name comes from the tree found on the obverse. It may symbolize one of the Bay Colony's prime exports, pine trees for ships' masts. Massachusetts coinage not only circulated within that colony, but was generally accepted throughout the Northeast, becoming a monetary standard in its own right.
Why the 1652 date? Some believe that it was intended to commemorate the founding of the Massachusetts mint, which did occur in 1652. Others believe the choice was a reflection of larger political events. Coinage was a prerogative of the King. In theory, these colonists had no right to strike their own coins, no matter how great their need.
But in 1652, there was no king. King Charles had been beheaded three years previously, and England was a republic. The people in Massachusetts may have cleverly decided to put that date on their coinage so that they could deny any illegality when and if the monarchy were reestablished.
This "1652" shilling is likely to have been minted around 1670. In 1682, the Hull/Sanderson mint closed after closer royal scrutiny of the operation.
Object Name
date on coin
date made
1667 - 1674
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Physical Description
silver (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: .1 cm x 2.8 cm; 1/32 in x 1 3/32 in
place made
United States: Massachusetts
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins, Currency and Medals
The Value of Money
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


"In 1971 I was 12 yrs. old bare foot running through sand in my home town,(also colonial)Augusta,Ga.I kicked up a quarter sized,very crusty object.I kept it in my pocket all day.I cleaned it enough to see it was a coin, after research,a 1652 willow tree shilling.My question today is could it have migrated here this far south? You mentioned the pine tree coin was widely circulated in the N.E. colonies. My mother has told me of stories about an old Indian trail/hedge road/wagon road that ran through our property long ago.The coin being authenic or not I don't know,but the story here is true "

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