I. R. Bama's Blog

31 Jan 2021

John Hull and His Hull Mint

Coins-United States Colonial | I. R. Bama

After writing about James Longacre, I kind of wondered why I started with the third chief engraver and that led me to look at earlier engravers and mint principles. Then I wondered about who was the Hull in the Hull mint, as it was the first mint in our colonial national history. I was surprised to find that information on this subject is not especially easy to obtain without access to an academic library. And access to an academic library is forbidden to the public during this peculiar time. So left to the Hoi Polloi at this time are the few sources that that can be gleaned from the internet. This is one I would like to delve in even deeper.

Captain John Hull was born on a very cold day on December 18, 1624 in Market Harborough, Liecestershire, England to Robert and Elizabeth Hull and was the family's eldest son. His father, a blacksmith came to this country and business flourished and he did well with establishing his family in Boston.

John Hull himself was a successful businessman and was involved in trading goods to the world where his fortune was made. His family owned a ship and there are substantial allegations, that his brother Edward who captained the Swallow was involved in piracy and raiding island homes. At one point, the law caught up with the pirating operation and the Hulls unsuccessfully argued in court that they were unaware of their son's and brother's activities, and were fined 96 British Pounds for his nefarious activities. John, himself, was well connected as he had married Judith Quincy and was related to the Adams family, the progenitors of future presidents. He was a founding member of Old South Church and was Captain of a company of artillery. He was also responsible for the donation of a large tract of land for the establishment of Harvard University.

The colony of Massachusetts faced unique challenges to their economy due to a scarcity of coinage. Unlike the agrarian colonies, the economy of Massachusetts was based on a broad diversity of manufacturing products. While in the southern colonies, monetary value could be established on commodities such as tobacco or cotton, the New England colonies had nothing to standardize trade with (with perhaps the exception of whale oil? Speculation on my part).

As a result of the resultant coin shortage, the Colonial Governor of the Massachusetts authorized John Hull, a noted silversmIith, to establish a mint in Boston on May 7th, 1652. He became our nation's first mint master and partnered with Robert Sanderson for this endeavor. As minting a colony's own coinage was considered to be high treason in Great Britain, penalties for violating the control of minting coinage was quite severe, including being drawn and quartered. This was a highly tortured sentence of execution. One cannot realize the abject cruelty of this act unless perhaps one has seen this performed on Sir William Wallace of Scotland in the movie Braveheart. Yet in the face of potential outcome, Hull established the mint and began producing( by our standards) crude silver coins.

So why did they decide to make their own coins under these conditions? It was because, Oliver Cromwell had overthrown the monarchy and beheaded Charles I. Now there was no king, Great Britain could mint no coinage and the shortage became even more acute. So the Massachusetts Colonial government used this as a legal excuse to mint their own coinage. It was also economically advantageous to Hull as his compensation was over 6% of the silver he coined and even included an allowance for wastage in the minting process as apparently some silver can be lost to vapor in the process.All coins bore the date 1652 no matter when they were minted in order to argue they had been minted when there was no king.

The first coins minted by Hull in 1652 are known as New England Coinage. They were spare of design both on the obverse and reverse. The obverse coin field is mostly unused as is true of the reverse. The obverse featured a stylized NE and reverse featured the denomination. There was a threepence, a sixpence and a shilling. They bear no date.

Willow Tree Coinage was minted from 1653 to 1660, The design was changed to use all of the field of each coin in order to prevent the dishonest from shaving or clipping bits of silver off the coins in order to profit by dishonesty. All the coins from this design forward bear the date 1652.

Cromwell's Commonwealth of England fell and the Monarchy was restored with Charles II in 1660. Now the old laws were reapplied so the early date was always used. They were issued in threepence, sixpense and schilling denominations.

Oak Tree Coins were minted from 1660 to1667. Their designs were becoming more sophisticated and they were issued in threepence, sixpence and schilling denominations. There were very few twopence examples that do not bear the date, There is speculation that these were pattern coins for the last issue of Hull mint coins, The Pine Tree coinage.

Pine Tree coins were minted from 1667-1682. Their denominations included a twopence, threepence, sixpence and schilling. In 1682 great pressure was brought to bear on the mint, as well as other businesses in Boston by the Crown and the Colonial Government closed the mint permanently.

All the images below appear in order from NE through Pine Tree designs.


Mega Redbook Deluxe first edition

New England Historical Society

John Hull (February 18, 1624 — January 1, 1683), American merchant, silversmith, mintmaster | World Biographical Encyclopedia (prabook.com)






Level 5

Wow, I never knew about any of this! I thought it was cool that they all bore the 1652 date. Pretty nifty. Thanks for the very informative blog!


Level 4

Oh yes. A whole bunch of brand new wonderful historical information! I love the 'pences', they initially look so crude, but boy are they not! Just fascinating, thank you!!!

It's Mokie

Level 6

Wonderful blog, I learned a lot today. Thanks for your excellent research.


Level 6

Great history lesson! Thanks for all your research and an interesting blog. ; )


Level 5

Good stuff! I love this coin! I have learned a lot about it, just never the "back side" of the coin (dev., design, engraver, etc). Fun fact.... During the famous witch hunts that plagued Salem int he mid-late 1600's, people would wear the Pine Tree shilling around their neck to ward off evil spirits. So if you find one with a square hole ont he top, you now know what it is. Adds a bit of history to it (;


Level 6

It is always nice to read the history of coins.


Level 7

You have the Mint that made the Fubio cent. Made at the Scovill mint in New Haven Connecticut. I remembered that because I wrote a blog on it.This one on Hull was very well done. I did here of him but never connected the dots with the mint. I saw pictures of the Old South Church . Beautiful. Like the coins Hull made . They were done very well. Now I have connected the dots. I first saw them in the Red book. . Thanks for working very hard on this. The history about our country can be told by coins.


Level 5

Very educational and interesting. Amazing times back then. Thanks for a great blog.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

This isn't an area I have spent much time in. I was learning about Minting before the new nation formed a mint. I suspect I have just touched the tip of an iceberg. Hull was the first but certainly not the last in Minting colonial coinage. There are others to learn about as well


Level 6

Excellent blog. I, sadly, even forgot the Colonies were Colonies of England then. See sad. So, very interesting. I'm not a big fan of colonials but I do understand there importance to our nation and our hobby. Thanks Bama. Very well done indeed.

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