Although the silver shilling was worth just pennies in the mid-17th century, it’s now considered the most excellent example of the estimated 40 coins still in existence today. According to a statement from auctioneer Morton & Eden Ltd., the coin was discovered in the U.K. in a candy tin holding hundreds of older coins.
Auctioneer coin specialist James Morton referred to the coin as the “star of the collection.” The coin’s simple design features the initials NE for New England on one side and the Roman numeral XII (12), the number of pennies in a shilling, on the other.
In a statement, Morton said that the New England shilling was produced by John Hull in 1652 in Boston to be used as currency by early settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. That same year, the Massachusetts General Court had named Hull and his assistant, Robert Sanderson, Boston mintmaster, tasked with establishing the first silver coinage in North America.
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Production of the coins was considered treasonous by King Charles II, the statement said, and was shut down in 1682.
Up until its consignment, it’s believed the coin was in the same family for generations. Wentworth “Wenty” Beaumont commissioned the sale after his father discovered the shilling inside a tin in his study at the family estate in northern England, and their ancestor, William Wentworth, was an early settler of New England. Wentworth likely arrived in the colonies in 1636 and acquired the coin new.
The online auction, which will include several other early American coins, will be held on November 26, 2021.