US Coins

Heritage continues its offering of Christopher J. Salmon Collection

Heritage will continue its offering of early Massachusetts silver coins from the collection of Christopher J. Salmon during its Oct. 6 to 9 Long Beach Expo auction at its Dallas headquarters. Heritage offered the first installment Aug. 22.

Salmon is a retired thoracic radiologist and author of The Silver Coins of Massachusetts, published by the American Numismatic Society in 2010. His work updated earlier ANS monographs on Massachusetts silver coinage by Sydney P. Noe and created a numbering system that is chronological. As Christpher McDowell wrote in an introduction to the August session, “As you move through the catalog, you can see the history of early American coinage progress before your eyes. Each subset within the series represents the first time a new coining technology was attempted on American soil.”

Some heavy hitters in the October auction include two New England shillings, including one Salmon 3-B coin graded Very Fine 35 by Numismatic Guaranty Co. that is one of just six known examples of the variety. Heritage calls it “bold and distinct,” praising “an attractive patina of rose-tinted gold on what remain pleasingly reflective surfaces.”

It is the second offering from Salmon’s collection of the variety, as another graded NGC Extremely Fine Details, Damaged, sold for $69,000 at Heritage’s August session. Salmon wrote in The Silver Coins of Massachusetts that these were early productions at the Massachusetts Mint from trained silversmiths. “Though they were experts in their craft, the silversmiths had no training or experience as coiners ... This is reflected in their earliest coins, produced by the familiar techniques of their trade ...” Their handmade quirks are one of the things that draw specialists to the series.

Scarce Willow Tree shillings

The craftsmanship at the early Massachusetts Mint evolved as seen in the Willow Tree design, and Salmon’s holdings include several examples of the type. One Salmon 2-B coin in the auction graded NGC Good Details, Damaged, shows extensive signs of circulation and little visible detail but for the lower half of the tree and a faint impression of the tree’s groundline. It is the lowest-graded of the 11 known of the variety.

More details are seen on a Salmon 3-E Willow Tree shilling graded NGC Very Fine Details, Tooled, with the typical weak design definition at the centers seen on most examples of the type.

At the Coinage of the Americas Conference in 2014, Salmon explained that the Willow Tree shillings were often minted with the handheld die purposely tilted while radially oriented strikes were applied in serial fashion around the periphery, resulting in a weak tree. E. Elliott Woodward wrote in an 1865 auction that the tree resembled a “Palmetto Tree” though the term “Willow Tree” was used soon after. The offered coin is in the middle of the condition census of the 13 reported examples of the variety.

Handsome Pine Tree type

Most collectors are familiar with early Massachusetts silver Pine Tree shillings, coins struck on both small and large planchets, that survive in decent quantities to make them affordable to a broad range of collectors. A type collector might be attracted to Salmon’s Pine Tree, Small Planchet shilling listed as Salmon 2-B graded About Uncirculated 58 by NGC that is a common variety. Heritage calls it one of the most frequently encountered varieties of all Massachusetts silver coins, but the coin in the auction is distinguished by rich gold toning at the centers with deeper toning at the peripheries. The design elements are visible, and it is well-centered, making it a prime example of the type.

Another example of the variety in the sale is certified by NGC but not graded, with NGC calling it “Corroded, Clipped.” Indeed, it is heavily corroded and significantly underweight, since it was recovered from the HMS Feversham, which was wrecked near the southeastern tip of Scatarie Island, off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1711.

Connect with Coin World:  
Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Access our Dealer Directory  
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter

Community Comments