US Coins

Massachusetts silver in specialized Stack's Bowers offering

“The Muddy River Collection,” a specialized cabinet of more than 70 Massachusetts silver coins featuring 15 distinct Oak Tree shilling varieties and 26 distinct Pine Tree shilling varieties, is a key part of Stack’s Bowers Nov. 14 Showcase Auction.

Enthusiastically studied and collected among the issues that circulated in early America, the Willow Tree coinage of 1653 to 1660, the Oak Tree coinage of 1660 to 1667 and the Pine Tree coinage of 1667 to 1682 are distinct design types that nearly all bear the date 1652. They were produced with handmade dies that are distinctive, and often feature striking irregularities that make them charming examples of the perseverance of early coiners in America.

The scarce Willow Tree type is represented by just two examples. The type followed the earliest “New England” Massachusetts coinage, characterized by a spare punch design that invited counterfeiting and clipping of the edges.

The offering starts with extremely rare Noe 3-E 1652-dated shilling, as cataloged in Sydney P. Noe’s foundational reference to the series and more recently as 3-E Christopher J. Salmon’s book The Silver Coins of Massachusetts where he writes on the die, “The margins of the tree canopy are formed with thick strokes and rounded on right and left.” Graded Very Good Details, Rim Damage by Professional Coin Grading Service, it was clipped at the edges to remove silver and there is a thin, criss-crossed pin scratch on the reverse.

The cataloger notes that it is one of just nine examples traced of the variety.

The cataloger adds, “Any Willow Tree shilling is an important property — in real terms they’re rarer than NE shillings — and this one has excellent eye appeal and surface quality despite its period clipping.”

The next lot is a 1652 Willow Tree sixpence cataloged as Noe 1-A and Salmon 1-A, graded Very Fine Details, Plugged by Numismatic Guaranty Co. The issue is known only by a single variety, distinguished by a center drill hole in the middle of the tree canopy seen on all examples with Salmon writing, “The trunk of the tree appears to ramify downwards in a broad and organic pattern.”

Stack’s Bowers traces 15, or so, survivors.

This offering includes relatively strong details, with evidence of a double strike on the reverse. The cataloger observes, “The NGC qualifier concerns a rather inoffensive plug involving the upper left branches of the tree, which have been skillfully reengraved over the repair. The plug is less discernible on the reverse, centered on the digits 52 in the date.”

Oak and Pine Trees

The Oak Tree twopence is distinctive for carrying a 1662 date and the entire modest production was produced from just one obverse die, which Salmon calls “symmetrical and elegant.” The subject offering includes a 1662 Oak Tree twopence, Noe-34 and Salmon 1-B, graded Very Fine Details, Chopmark by PCGS that has a prominent letter D punched into the center of the obverse. The planchet is cracked from this counterstamp, which may be a collector’s mark.

There are fewer than 10 confirmed examples of the Noe-28, Salmon 10-D 1652 Pine Tree, Small Planchet shilling, and the offering’s NGC-graded Very Fine 20 representative is particularly charming. The tree is among the most symmetrical and well-articulated in the series, with five matched pairs of branches and a gradually tapering trunk. It features a well-struck obverse and bold centers, though, “The periphery is quite soft due to a combination of die clash and an off-center impression that has the lower left running off the flan.”

It was recently offered at Heritage’s presentation of Salmon’s collection of Massachusetts silver in October 2022 where it realized $6,000.

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