31.3 grains. 23.7 mm x 19.8 mm. One of just two known examples in the private marketplace, the arrival of this piece into the public eye follows the sale of a genuine NE sixpence from the Jack Royse Collection for $431,250. While this piece shares a design with that famous rarity, it does not share the same origin or history. Instead, evidence points to this being a counterfeit from the dawn of American coin collecting, a counterfeit made for collectors rather than a counterfeit made to spend.
The NE coinage had its problems as a coin type. It was easily clipped, perhaps easily faked. It was produced for just a few months before the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony legislated the coinage out of existence. Undoubtedly, a substantial percentage of the pieces that had been produced were recoined into Willow, Oak, and Pine Tree coinages. It is a wonder as many survive as do. While counterfeiting Pine Tree shillings made good sense from a counterfeiters perspective, as the coin was commonplace and easily recognized throughout New England, the mid-Atlantic and Chesapeake regions, and even the Caribbean, counterfeiting NE coins for circulation would have made less sense: even during their circulating life, they were too rare and too obscure.
The appearance of the Ford specimen from these dies, along with John Ford's conviction of its great age, seduced some into believing the piece was coined to circulate. It looked worn, with lots of scratches and even a test cut on the rim. Greater scrutiny revealed that the wear was not the sort induced from years in circulation (indeed, few genuine NE pieces show that sort of wear), but the sort made by a counterfeiter to fool a collector. The present specimen from the Craige Collection did not undergo such treatment, and helps us inject more data into the case of the Noe 2-B sixpence.
Its planchet is thin and oval-shaped, with evidence of having been rolled; the flan may have started life as a worn, perfectly circular coin. The natural tiny splits that happen at the edge of a rolled piece of metal (or anything rolled, even a pizza crust), have been gently filed to give the piece a more rounded appearance and remove sharp metal from the edges. The surfaces show raised linear artifacts that were left by whatever tool rolled this piece, or whatever surface it was rolled against; these raised lines would have worn away after just a brief time in actual circulation, of which this piece likely saw none. The punches match those found on the Ford Noe 2-B. Unlike those found on a genuine NE coin, they are opposite each other at the same end of the flan, not at opposing ends. Some light horizontal scratches are seen under the reverse punch. A half-circle shaped indentation at the right side of the obverse may have been a hole in whatever coin was cut down and rolled out to create the planchet. Careful examination also reveals a tiny D punch beneath the N of NE, about halfway to center, suggesting this coin was the property of William Dunham, the famed collector who marked tiny Ds on his 1804 dollar, among other coins. No NE sixpence was included in the famous 1941 B. Max Mehl sale of the Dunham Collection, however.
When the first modern appearance of the Noe 4 NE Sixpence took place in the Ford Massachusetts silver sale, it was noted that “Most numismatists believe that the Noe 4 NE Sixpence was an early circulating counterfeit,” which was perhaps not the case, though it was the sincere belief of Mr. Ford. It brought $184,000. The winning bidder reconsidered based upon other opinions of its age and original intent, and the piece was resold in our January 2008 Stack's Americana sale, netting a more appropriate $13,800.
It is to be determined what this coin is worth today. The most valuable struck copies crack the five-figure level. We reiterate that only four specimens are known of this type: the Ford coin, the now-impounded Newman coin, the former Norweb coin (now at the Smithsonian Institution), and this one. Just two of those will ever see the light of day, namely this piece and the Ford specimen. The acquisition of this would represent an important historical addition to an advanced collection of Massachusetts silver.
From the Ted L. Craige Collection.