Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
1652 Pine Tree Shilling (1667–1682)
Yep, it's me, Nero the Mint Police Dog to tell you about a coin that doesn't look anything like other American coins. That's because the Pine Tree Shilling actually wasn't U.S. currency. It was a Massachusetts coin made while the state was still an English colony.
I picked the Pine Tree Shilling coin for November because this is the month we celebrate a special feast that first took place in Massachusetts' Plymouth Bay Colony more than 30 years before this coin was made. And that feast was...? That's right! Thanksgiving!
About 1621, when the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, the colonists had little need for money. They could trade food and animal skins for everything they needed. But as time went on and traders from other countries arrived, the colonists wanted money to buy things. Because English coins were scarce, the colonists decided to make their own.
However, this was against the law. The king said only his royal treasury could make English money (remember, these colonists were still English). But in the 1650's, the English got rid of the king, and the citizens of Boston seized the opportunity to make their own money.
After a new king came to the throne, the Bostonians continued to produce their own currency. But they cleverly put the date 1652 on all of their coins so it would look like the coins were made when there was no king. That way, the coins would be considered legal. The 1652 Pine Tree shilling, which wasn't actually minted until 1667, was one of these "back-dated" silver coins.
As for the Pilgrims, luckily for them, they didn't need money to buy their first Thanksgiving dinner. They hunted turkeys and grew their own vegetables. Besides, the Native Americans who shared the feast brought the main course: deer. Today, we stick to the turkey and vegetables, but give thanks all the same.