Rare Oak Tree threepence found by British metal detectorist

1652-dated coin from Massachusetts remains to be authenticated
By , Coin World
Published : 09/08/14
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An example of one of the earliest American coins, a 1652 Oak Tree silver threepence of Massachusetts, was reportedly discovered in England by a metal detectorist Sept. 7.

An expert in Colonial coins estimates the coin's worth at between $8,000 and $10,000 U.S., given its condition. 

The find was reported by the British newspaper The Daily Mail. Coin World has reached out to St. James's Auctions, which is cited in the report as planning to sell the coin on Dec. 2 in London, as well as the metal detectoring group, for confirmation of the find, its rarity and its sale.

The Daily Mail reported that the coin was found in a farmer’s field by 42-year-old John Stoner. The Massachusetts Oak Tree threepence was reportedly found in the village of King’s Clipstone, located in the Sherwood Forest county of Nottinghamshire, during a treasure hunt sponsored by the Coil to the Soil Metal Detecting Club

Stoner reportedly had just begun sweeping his detector's coil across a freshly plowed field when he received two signals. The first was for a piece of junk metal, but the second revealed the 17th century American coin 5 inches below the surface, the Daily Mail reported. 

Coin World columnist John Kraljevich said, "The guy [who found it] had a good day but not a life-changing day."

A pricing estimate in the Daily Mail of $1.7 million U.S. is out of line, he said.

"They're comparing apples to orangutans," Kraljevich said, suggesting that the estimate might have been made based on the 2010 sale of a 1652 New England shilling by Heritage Auctions for $416,875. Even the nicest Uncirculated example of an Oak Tree threepence wouldn't fetch more than a quarter to one-half that amount, Kraljevich said. 

Background of coin

Oak Tree coinage followed the Willow Tree coinage and was produced from about 1660 to 1667, preceding the Pine Tree coinage. Oak Tree coinage includes the 1652-dated threepence, sixpence and shilling, and 1662-dated twopence. 

The threepence is found in two major types, either with the word IN on the obverse or missing from that side. Only one obverse die bore the IN inscription, according to the Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins, by Q. David Bowers.

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