This pine tree shilling was likely created between 1667 and 1674, according to the National Museum of American History. Earlier versions of the coins had willow or oak trees.Photo courtesy of the National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

What: Passage of the Massachusetts Bay Mint Act
When: May 26-27, 1652
Where: Boston 

  • Early Massachusetts colonists had some forms of coins, including the Wampum, a shell used when trading with Native American tribes, and foreign coins. British authorities wanted colonists to barter for goods or services, but Massachusetts Bay residents preferred the independence and buying power associated with coins, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s “History of Colonial Money.” 
  • Even though creating currency was not legal in the colonies, both houses of the Massachusetts Bay General Court passed legislation establishing a mint and named John Hull as the mint-master. The mint remained active until British authorities ordered it closed in 1682.   
  • The first silver coins were easily counterfeited, leading the General Court to call for a redesign that included a tree on one side. The coins, which later became known as Pine Tree shillings, were dated 1652 so that Massachusetts could claim to England that no coins had been made since that year, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve.  

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Banker & Tradesman is highlighting significant moments in the history of Massachusetts’ real estate and banking industries. To suggest a topic, email

“Upon occasion of much counterfeit coin brought into the country, and much loss accruing in that respect (and that did occasion a stoppage of trade), the General Court ordered a mint to be set up. … And they made choice of me for that employment; and I chose my friend, Robert Sanderson, to be my partner, to which the Court consented.” 

— From the “Diaries of John Hull” in the manuscript collection of the American Antiquarian Society 

This Month in History: Mass. Mints First Colonial Coins

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 1 min