The Pine Tree Coins of Massachusetts

John Hull’s Massachusetts coinage went through three different incarnations in the 15 years from its beginnings in 1652 until the final design change in 1667. It was this design that would remain until the end of Hull’s contract in 1682. Far from the crude “NE” coins of the early mint, Hull’s Pine Tree coinage was the culmination of minting technology in 17th century colonial America.

The Pine Tree design evolved over time rather than springing forth fully formed. The Pine Tree design shares a common reverse with three Oak Tree sixpence and the Oak Tree shilling variety designated Noe 14 (after Sydney Noe’s die numbering system) is the first of Hull’s coinage to begin showing the spiney branches typical of the Pine Tree design. Also, the earliest Pine Tree coins are on the same large, thin planchets common in the Oak Tree series, a result of the rocker press technology. Later Pine Trees are struck on smaller, thicker planchets indicative of the acquisition of the then state of the art screw press, this being acquired around 1675. Threepence, sixpence, and shilllings were all struck with the Pine Tree design, the twopence denomination being dropped for some unknown reason.

Bowers states that the Pine Tree coins were struck in large numbers with the shilling being the most encountered of the series today. Philip Mossman relates a story about the recovery of many Massachusetts coins from the 1711 wreck of the H.M.S. Feversham. Of the 92 coins salvaged, all but 2 were of the shilling denomination, 54 being of the Pine Tree design. Without a doubt, the silver Massachusetts coinage was widely circulated in its time.

It’s interesting to note some of the legends surrounding Hull and his coinage. There’s the story of how the dowry of Hull’s daughter Hannah was paid in Massachusetts silver, the amount being equal to her weight, when she married judge Samuel Sewall in 1675. This was the same judge Sewall who presided over the Salem witch trials in 1692! Before it was noted that the rocker press technology was the cause of so much bent Massachusetts silver, the superstition was that colonists carried a bent silver coin to ward off witches. This practice has no contemporary proof but is still an interesting

John Hull died in 1683, just months after his minting contract with the General Court ran out. As early as 1684 the mint is mentioned in the past tense in newspaper accounts of the day. Hull’s coinage served the colonists well, providing a much needed medium of exchange in local commerce. The “NE” and Willow Tree coinage are far out of reach for most collectors but the Oak and Pine Tree coinage can be had in attractive though well worn condition. These survivors from the 17th century would be the highlight of any collection.


  1. We found a coin with a pine tree on the backside with writing that says massachusetts state and on either side of the pine tree are the letters IC and LM or UM on the front side of coin it says liberty and virtue the year says 1776 it has a picture of a woman leaning on a globe of the world (r) and appears to be holding a long rod in her left hand and someting in her right hand but we are unable to make out what it is also near her left foot there appears to be an animal like figure (almost like figures used in american indian writings) it appears to be copper and has ridged edge like todays coins it is larger than a quarter but smaller than a one dollar piece

    • Hi Terri. What you most likely have is a modern copy of the 1776 Massachusetts cent pattern. The only known authentic specimen resides in the Massachusetts Historical Society collection. The giveaway that it is a modern copy is the fact that the original has no upset edge. It sounds like yours was struck in a collar that would give it a uniform shape and raised rim. Minting techniques in colonial America were much more crude.

  2. r.w.howell says:

    i once found a pine tree shilling in a bag of old coins,hear in dorset while on holiday in1995. after much reserch it became clear boat’s from Massachusetts docked at Lyme Regis England. using these coin’s in trade.My coinwas classified as Noe 26 Oberse Masathvsets(triangle of 3 dots) in(rosette of 7 dots) Reverse Nevvengland. an do. 1652/x11 Sadly i sold the coin through Spinks in the U S A in1999 Will we collectors ever learn!

  3. Robert Wasserman says:

    I lived with foster parents in the 1940’s in Medway Ma. I was about 8/9 years old and was going fishing and was crossing a farmers newly plowed field.I found i coin sticking out of the newly turned earth and took it home..It had a pine tree on it and was very old.I gave it to my foster parents to find out what it was. They left it with the town librarian to find out what it was and what it was worth.They never got it back.My question is how many of these coins exist and what would be their value.This one was old but all the marking were clear and i remember it was from the late 1700’s.

  4. Rick McKean says:

    I have a 1652 Masathvsets New England Shilling that looks identical to the Noe 1, except that the dots at the bottom are 6 in a circle with one in the middle, total 7 instead of the 9 in the pictures I have seen. Everything else lines up with a Noe 1. It appears to be silver and came from a collection at least 50 years old. The coin is worn, but in good condition. I have been looking at replicas, but none look like this. Is it possible that I have an authentic one? Your expertise is appreciated.
    Rick McKean

    • Is your Pine Tree shilling a large planchet or small planchet? The small planchet Noe-15 has the top of the tree pointing to the S as the Noe-1 large planchet does. The difference is: the large planchet shilling has the circle of dots on the reverse (date side) and the small planchet shilling has the circle of dots on the obverse (tree side). The circle of dots on the Noe-15 also consists of 6 dots comprising the circle with one in the middle like yours. If your coin is a small planchet example I would say it has a shot at being genuine.

      • i have a pine tree schilling with the circle of dots on both sides the date side and the tree side is it a replica for sure than?

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