Sign In or Create Account

Knowledge Center

What is a Pine Tree Shilling? 

The First Colonial Coin 

Pine Tree Shillings were colonial-issue coins that circulated in the thirteen colonies in the 17th century. They were produced between 1667 and 1682, although virtually every Pine Tree Shilling bears a 1652 date.  

While the United States of America was not yet a nation, this was the first coin struck on American soil. 

Background of the Pine Tree Shillings 

One of the key ingredients for commerce is a functioning monetary system. In the early 1650s, there were not enough circulating coins for the Massachusetts Bay Colony citizens to conduct business. As a result, the colonists defaulted to a system of barter and foreign coins, stifling the fledgling economy’s growth.  

On May 27, 1652, the Massachusetts General Court appointed John Hull as the Boston mint master. The British government was not made aware of this decision. John Hull worked with Robert Sanderson as a silversmith in Boston and produced the first silver colonial coins with 3 pence, 6 pence, and 1 shilling denominations. The first coins struck bore the letters NE for New England and the denomination, which was expressed simply as III, VI, and XII. 

These coins were about 22% smaller than equivalent sterling coins of their time. Later pieces, produced between 1652 and 1660, depicted a willow tree on the reverse. These Colonial issues featured an oak tree on the reverse between 1660 and 1667, and those struck from 1667 to 1682 bore a pine tree on the reverse.  

The significance of the pine tree is thought to be representative of the tall pine trees that provided lumber for the mainmasts of British ships. There was an implication of respect owed to the colonies as the source of this vital material. That sentiment and the symbolism of the pine tree grew with time, as there was a colonial Pine Tree flag flown during the American Revolution. 

Why are all Pine Shillings Dated 1652? 

There are two primary theories about why the early colonial issues bear the same date.  

The first theorizes that this was done to commemorate the Hull Mint, which was established in 1652. 

The second posits that since there was no reigning king in England in 1652, England was a de facto republic until the coronation of King Charles II in 1661. Issuing coins fell under the purview of the king, and if the coins were issued when there was no king, the legality fell into a somewhat gray area.  

While they were not intended for circulation outside of the colonies, Pine Tree Shillings eventually made it to European land. Surprisingly, the coins minted by two silversmiths in Boston were up to par with the relative fineness and quality of alloy as the English shilling. Due to their weight difference, they did not have the same value, but they held equivalent value, as the Pine Tree Shilling had ¾ the spending power of the English shilling. 

Regardless of which theory is closer to the truth, the Massachusetts Hull Mint was closed upon royal scrutiny in 1682. 

What Could a Pine Tree Shilling Buy? 

The buying power of a Pine Tree Shilling varied, but one could be used to buy numerous services and goods as shown on the table below. The conversion between Pine Tree Shillings and pence was 1 shilling: 12 pence. 

Goods and Services Price 
Loaf of bread 1-2 pence 
Pound of butter 6 pence 
Pair of shoes 10-20 pence 
1 day of skilled craftsman labor 12-18 pence 

How Much are Pine Tree Shillings Worth Today? 

Depending on their condition, Pine Tree Shillings can command an exceptional premium today. As they are nearly 400 years old, their populations have dwindled, and this scarcity adds to their value.  

Graded and authenticated Pine Tree Shillings are valued anywhere between $6,000 and $155,000. Some Willow Tree Shillings have even smaller populations and are valued at up to $600,000.  

Quick Guides to Investing

Step 1:

Why Buy Physical Gold and Silver?

If you are concerned about the volatility of the stock market, you’re not alone. The extreme highs and lows of the stock market often lead investors towards safe-haven assets, like bullion. Historically, the Precious Metals market has an inverse relationship with the stock market, meaning that when stocks are up, bullion is down and vice versa.

Step 2:

How Much Gold and Silver Should You Have?

This question is one of the most important for investors to answer. After all, experts suggest limits on how much of any types of investments should go into a portfolio. After deciding to purchase and own Precious Metals and considering how much money to allocate, one can then think about how much and what to buy at any point in time.

Step 3:

Which Precious Metals Should I Buy?

With the frequent changes in the market and countless Precious Metal products available, choosing investments can be difficult. Some want Gold or Silver coins, rounds or bars while others want products that are valuable because of their design, mintage or other collectible qualities. Also, collectors may shop for unique sets and individual pieces for their collections.

Step 4:

When to Buy Gold & Silver

After considering why, how much, and what Precious Metals products to buy, an investor’s next step is when to buy them. This decision requires an understanding of market trends and the impact of economic factors on precious metal prices.

Explore More On APMEX



Rare Coins