During autumn 1998, whilst digging up the last of the potatoes on my kitchen garden, I found a small silver coin with crude markings that were a complete mystery to me. Around its perimeter on one side were the letters NEW ENGLAND, with the date 1662 in the centre and underscored with 11. The other side bore the letters MASATHVSETS around the perimeter with what looked like a simplified tree stamped in the centre. It was obviously an early American coin but what was it doing here in South Devon? As explained in my previous Blog, silver and gold coins were traded and accepted across the globe on the intrinsic value of the weight of the metal. But our home, on the lower slopes of Dartmoor was surrounded by ancient woodland. However, shortly after we moved here we were exploring the woodland and stumbled upon a Quaker Burial Site. Could this be a link to the coin? My curiosity was piqued and I was determined to find out more.
A few weeks later, an A4 envelope stuffed with information and images, arrived from The Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston USA. The contained information gave a summary of the history behind, what turned out to be, a rare Oak Tree Twopence. In brief, Massachusetts Bay colony was kept short of ready money in order to prevent trade with England’s competitors and enemies. These silver coins, of several denominations, were rebelliously minted between 1652—82. They represent an official acknowledgement of New England’s growing sense of identity as separate from the mother country. The Massachusetts General Court’s act of 1652, establishing a mint in Boston, was an act of defiant trespass upon the Crown’s prerogative to mint coins by a colony determined to regulate its own economy.
There was no link to be found in respect of my coin and the Quaker Burial Site, which I knew was a long shot. Nevertheless, regarding my previous account of the push for a cashless society, take heed dear readers, maybe the time is approaching when the rebellious act of independently minting coinage will rise again.