Oak & Pine Trees, and The Bickford Dollar
Oak Trees, Pine Trees, and Bickford Dollars! I was fortunate enough to encounter all three of these at a local coin show, and can’t pass up the opportunity to geek off a little bit about them!
The Oak & Pine Tree Coins
In the days of 13 Colonies, coinage was in extremely short supply on our side of the Atlantic. To get right to the point, things were so bad that the colonists decided to start striking their own coins instead of relying on minute handouts from England, and Massachusetts was the first colony to take matters into their own hands.
In 1652 John Hull and an assistant were hired by the Governor of Massachusetts to set up a makeshift mint in Boston and begin the production of coins. Tree Coins, along with the New England coins, were the result. Nearly all of the three coins and each of their denominations bear the date 1652 … pretty impressive for a two-man operation and a MacGuyvere’d mint! Or it would have been …
1652, there was no King of England — Charles had been beheaded 3 years earlier, and England was a republic while political power battles played out and dynasties vied for the crown; technically speaking, there was no monarchy and so the law prohibiting anyone but the crown from striking coins got a little bendy. It is thought that the colonists saw this loophole and took it: after all, they had no right whatsoever to strike coins, no matter how dire they perceived the situation to be.
Most of the coins were likely produced in the mid to late 1670’s, continuing into the early 1680’s, but all cautiously bore the 1652 — you know, just in case.
Few of these Colonial Coins survive today, and nearly all are worth a tidy sum even in the lowest grades.
The Bickford Dollar
The Euro’s a great idea and all, but Dana Bickford had them all beat by more than 100 years. We think trans-Atlantic travel is a pain now — just imagine attempting it in the 1890’s. Oceanliners and horse drawn carriages were the only options, and as if the slow (and dangerous) modes of transportation weren’t irritating enough, once you got to where you were going you had the wrong kind of money.
Dana didn’t like constantly having to change currency as he moved from country to country in Europe, and so he came up with a brilliant idea: international coins. In 1897, 8 different pattern coins were struck by the US Mint based upon his idea and designs, with the goal being universal acceptance between all nations.
One side bears the inscription “This Combination Coin Will When Adopted be Good in All Nations / Heal All Differences Between Gold & Silver Men / and Fully Settle All Financial Questions / Approved by All Good Business Men“, while the other side repeats the inscription, then adds in the circular links the different values for currencies then in play across the world, along with “Here is Shown the Value of Our Dollar in the Coin of Different Nations of the World. Sterling 4.2 Francs 5.20 Kronen 3.80 Gulden 2.8 Marken 4.16 Guilder 2.50 Rouble 9.65 Yen 1.1“.
Brilliant, decades ahead of it’s time, and doomed to fail. As with most things that are significantly ahead of their time, The Bickford Dollar was misunderstood and failed to receive congressional approval; the concept was dropped like a hot rock, leaving a great story and highly collectible patterns behind.
“Cool coin story, bro!”