Coins are among the most fascinating areas of American
numismatics to study. Virtually all Colonial
Coins are rare, and many are only represented by heavily
circulated examples. A high grade colonial coin is a major
rarity which might not be offered more than once in a decade
or even longer. Collecting Colonial
Coins needs patience, but once a collector decides to
focus on its field he will be awarded with a collecting pursuit
of a lifetime, which can be filled in many different ways.
Coins can be roughly divided into at least four different
groups, although many people have different opinions on this.
Historical significance, rarity and availability will all
play a vital role in the decisions that a collector of Colonial
Coins should make.
Colonial coins and
tokens struck and used in the colonies
collectors of colonial coins will try to focus on this group.
Starting with the first silver coins struck in Massachusetts,
which are usually available in circulated condition but
become rare in high, problem-free grades, this category
contains various copper and silver coins. Many varieties
are rare enough to make this an endearing collecting challenge.
Often also included in this category are State copper issues
struck from 1783 and 1788 and early American coins struck
after the Declaration of Independence. Made in Vermont,
New Jersey, Connecticut Massachusetts and various other
places, many of these are available in lower grades, but
become very rare in high grades. Many different varieties
Coins and tokens
struck outside America but intended for use in the colonies
This is a very interesting group, which
is very vaguely defined and goes along with the next group.
These pieces were struck outside of the colonies, usually
in the United Kingdom and were intended for use in the Americas.
Early issues include coins struck by Cecil Calvert, second
Lord of Baltimore for use in Maryland, 17th century tokens
struck for use on American plantations. Later issues include
various tokens of private manufactory, which are sometimes
placed in the next category as well. This is the largest
group of colonial coins when it comes to different issues,
and contains many rarities which are seldom offered at any
Coins and tokens
struck outside of America for use elsewhere but related
to the colonial series
is a very confusing group, and sometimes it is not clear
if coins or tokens should be placed in the previous group
or this group. Many British coins and tokens have American
themes, or were previously believed to have been intended
for circulation in the colonies. However, research on most
of these pieces has concluded that they are unrelated to
the American colonies. Yet, because of numismatic tradition
they are often collected by collectors of American colonial
coins, and are thus listed in the major reference books.
Examples include ‘Elephant tokens’ struck in
London in the late 19th century, Wood’s Hibernia and
Voce Populi coinage struck in Ireland in the 18th century.
It must be noted that while unrelated, it is always possible
that some circulated in the American colonies.
Various world coins
which circulated in the American colonies
very interesting group, which could include every coin struck
in the world from the 15th century until the early 19th
century. People who lived in the American colonies saw a
large number of world coins in commerce, of various countries,
metals and values. However, a number of them are known to
have circulated heavily in early America, and are often
collected as a side subject in serious collections of American
colonial coinage. These include Mexican and South-American
Reales, Dutch Lion Dollars, German Thalers and many British
copper and silver issues. These were legal tender in the
United States until 1857, and many are still excavated from
American soil. A very interesting field, there are many
rarities but also circulated coins which are relatively