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The 1652 Wyatt Massachusetts Coin Copies

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Colonial Restrikes and Fantasies, (1850s) Shilling Oak Tree, Wyatt Copy, PCGS MS64. Click image to enlarge.

The 13 American colonies that eventually merged to become the United States late in the 18th century produced a colorful variety of circulating money in their formative years. Among the colonies was Massachusetts, where shells of various colors were exchanged as currency among Native peoples and saw use by many of the early European settlers in the New England colonies. Barter was also widely employed in Massachusetts, with corn, bullets, pelt, and other important provisions traded as an alternative to coinage. But coins from England, Holland, and other nations in the Old World made their way back to the American colonies in trans-Atlantic exchange and served an important role in the Colonial economy.

By the early 1650s, calls for standardized coinage reached a crescendo and prompted the Massachusetts General Court to request the first metallic coinage to be struck in English Colonial America. This led to the creation of “New England” coinage, struck in Massachusetts in 1652 and consisting of coins that became among the most iconic pieces of Colonial America, including the NE Threepence, NE Sixpence, and NE Shilling, all of which were struck in 1652 and are rare today. Over the next decades, a variety of other Colonial coins were made in Massachusetts, including Willow Tree Coinage (1653-1660), Oak Tree Coinage (1660-1667), and Pine Tree Coinage (1667-1882).

As did all Colonial coins, the original Massachusetts coinage became popular collectibles early in the evolution of numismatic study in the United States, with American collectors focusing on pre-Federal coinage by the middle of the 19th century. This increased numismatic demand for Colonial coinage eventually triggered price increases for these treasured early pieces – especially when it came to the rare Massachusetts coins. What were cash-strapped collectors to do? Around the 1850s, a New York City man named Thomas Wyatt believed he had arrived at a solution by striking and marketing reproductions of Massachusetts Colonial coins.

While all Wyatt Copies are exactly that – copies – they have nevertheless accrued significant collector interest in their own rights and are now popular collectibles despite not being authentic Colonial coins. The marketplace for Wyatt Copies has grown to the point that prices these pieces range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the specific type, grade, and variety.

Among the Wyatt Copies that PCGS recognizes and grades are:

Among the most valuable of the Wyatt Copies are the (1652) Oak Tree Sixpence Copy, an example of which was graded PCGS XF Details and took $6,600 in a 2020 Stack’s Bowers Galleries sale. Other high-end pieces have taken between $3,000 and $6,000, which rival the price points of several authentic Massachusetts coin types.

Of course, even among restrikes and fantasy pieces such as the Wyatt copies there are out-and-out counterfeits. Collectors must therefore be wary when buying any pieces that are billed as Wyatt Copies (or, for that matter, Massachusetts Colonial coins), for these may themselves be fakes – and Colonial coinage has the dubious honor of being some of the most counterfeited of all coinage. It is therefore advisable that collectors stick to buying PCGS-graded specimens whenever pursuing Wyatt Copies and any other rare numismatic pieces.

Sources

Colonials