Rare 17th century North American coin found in sweet tin in Northumberland

One of the very first coins to be struck in North America was recently discovered in Northumberland.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:32 pm

The extremely rare example of a mid-17th century New England shilling was found in an old sweet tin and is expected to fetch between £150,000 and £200,000 when it is auctioned next month.

They were consigned to auction by Wentworth ‘Wenty’ Beaumont, an art advisor from Bywell Hall in the Tyne Valley.

One of his ancestors, William Wentworth, is thought to have arrived in New England as early as 1636 and several members of the family were later to occupy prominent positions in Colonial America.

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The vintage sweet tin filled with coins, including the rare early American coins. The rare New England Shilling is being held.

Wenty recounts: “My father recently found the tin in his study. If he knew it was there he had long since forgotten about it.

"I’d never seen it before and when I opened it I thought it was just a rather bizarre collection of random old coinage.”

He took it to show coin specialist James Morton at Morton & Eden in London.

And James said: “I could see straight away that there were plenty of interesting pieces alongside some ordinary modern coins but there was one simple silver disc which immediately jumped out at me.

The recently discovered rare New England Shilling.

“I could hardly believe my eyes when I realised that it was an excellent example of a New England shilling, struck by John Hull in 1652 for use as currency by early settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.”

The simple silver coin is of rudimentary and rustic design and bears the initials NE for New England, together with the Roman numerals XII (indicating 12 pence which equals one shilling). It is one of about 40 examples which are known to survive.

Also found in the sweet tin were a Massachusetts ‘Pine Tree’ shilling (est: £3,000-4,000), two examples of ‘Continental Currency’ pewter dollars dated 1776 (both estimated at £30,000-40,000) and a ‘Libertas Americana’ bronze medal (est: £6,000-8,000), and several British hammered gold coins.

“The star of the collection is unquestionably the remarkable New England shilling, the plain appearance of which belies its extraordinary historic significance and outstanding original state of preservation,” said James.

It is due to be sold online on Friday, November 26.

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