Maryland Coins by Type | Colonial Coins by Type 

Obverse of (1659) Baltimore Shilling     Reverse of (1659) Baltimore Shilling


Circulation strikes:
Proofs: none reported or known

Designer: unknown

Diameter: ± millimeters

Metal content:
Silver ( percentage high, but not quantified)

Weight: 72 grains (varies widely)

Edge: Plain

Mintmark: None (London, England)

The Maryland Shilling is part of a private coinage issued by Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, sometime in 1658-1659 and possibly later.  Calvert became heir in 1632 to a huge expanse of land that later became Maryland.  He believed his Royal Charter permitted him to strike coins, which were needed to help stabilize Maryland's agrarian economy.  However, once the coins were issued, Calvert was ordered arrested and some ( perhaps all) of his coins and equipment were confiscated.  No record of the proceedings against Calvert have been uncovered, but the existence of the coins and the fact that Calvert lived until 1675 indicate that he prevailed!

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.

Significant examples:
PCGS MS-61.  Ex - Eliasberg - offered by Bowers & Merena Galleries for $38,500 in the June 11, 2001 issue of The Coin Collector

Recent appearances:
PCGS AU-55.  Ex - Paul Arthur Norris - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "Pre-Long Beach Sale", September 23 & 24, 2002, Lot 17, illustrated, where it was described as follows: "Dies 1-A, R-6. PCGS graded AU-55. One of the classic rarities of the Colonial issues, the Lord Baltimore shilling elicits collector excitement whenever they are offered. On this particular specimen we note the planchet is of good quality, and the color is a natural lilac silvery gray. The strike is typical for the issue, with the weakness in the hair on Lord Calvert, and the familiar die injury (clashing?) on the reverse below II in the denomination. Close scrutiny will note a thin line like mark from the lower rim into the bust of Lord Baltimore, and a similar and thinner line from the rim into the D of DNS, and we suspect that this coin may have been struck three or more times, the first two strikes off-center, with these trace lines (from the edge of the previous off center-strikes) remaining as evidence. Corresponding planchet lines are present on the reverse. A great rarity, and we note that PCGS has graded only 3 of these Lord Baltimore shillings as AU-55, with 1 higher as AU-58 and one at the top at MS-61 out of a grand total of 24 graded in all grades listed. Breen estimates the entire mintage at 20,000 pieces, virtually all of which have long since disappeared. They were struck in London, probably at the Tower Mint.
George Calvert was a member of the first London Company, established by Royal Charter in 1606, and settled in Virginia. Rising to prominence, Calvert asked for and received a new Royal Charter which was granted in 1632 to establish a trading community in what later became Maryland. The Royal Charter authorized Mr. Calvert to assume stewardship of approximately 10 million acres, on which Calvert was to establish a community called "Avalon", in order to purchase furs and dried fish for resale to England. As the Royal Charter was being prepared, George Calvert died, so the Charter passed to his son, Cecil Calvert, and formal assumption papers were adapted by June 20, 1632. Although authority for coinage was not mentioned, Cecil Calvert assumed this privilege was included, as this privilege was included in the similar 1606 Virginia Grant.
The colonists that braved the sea voyage grew tobacco, and naturally tobacco became the primary medium of exchange. As more and more acreage was planted, and the population grew, tobacco's purchasing power fell relative to other needed goods and services. Curiously, rents were fixed by contract and payable in tobacco, which was advantageous for renters, but prices of other needed goods (food, gunpowder and imported wares) soared when purchased with the deflated and abundant tobacco. Complaints were loud and frequent, and something had to be done. The situation got out of control by 1650, and Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, had to actually sell his own cattle in order pay the colony's soldiers wages in order to avert a mutiny (Crosby P. 124, or Breen's Encyclopedia P. 18). By 1658 Calvert decided to exercise his assumed power to coin money. The local colonial assembly passed the necessary legislation, and soon the new coins arrived from London and could be used to pay all rents, arrears, taxes, duties and other obligations, and even allowed for the punishment of counterfeiters.
Denominations of shillings, sixpence, four pence and penny were ordered and struck in London during 1658/9. The eyebrows of The Clerke of Irons in the Tower, Richard (Thomas?) Pight were raised and he obtained a warrant for Calvert's arrest on October 4, 1659.The charge was for exporting silver and the denominations and weights of the coins were at issue. Calvert answered questions posed by the Committee of the Council for Plantations and the Committee passed legislation which allowed the coinage and kept Calvert out of hot water.
The coins eventually turned up in Baltimore by 1662 after the legal problems were settled, and local legislation was then passed forcing all householders and freemen to exchange 60 pounds of tobacco for 10 shillings in the new coins. The population at the time of such householders and freeman is estimated to be 5,500 persons, and thus Breen has extrapolated mintages of these coins. The coins circulated for a time, but within a few decades had vanished, with the local Baltimore citizens reverting to the barter system again, using not only tobacco, but even hemp or Cannibus Sativa (marijuana) was officially allowed as legal tender at the rate of sixpence per pound payable on any debt!
Early silver in the American colonies is quite rare, most coinages were of copper by the various states and other cast offs from England, Ireland and France. Here is one of the finest of these rare and desirable Lord Baltimore shillings to survive. Better than the examples offered in Picker, Robison, Eliasberg or Roper. An opportunity of great importance for the colonial specialist." - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc. "The Benson Collection, Part III", February 24-25, 2003, Lot 8, illustrated, sold for $12,075.00

PCGS EF-40.  Ex - Superior Galleries "Pre-Long Beach" Elite Coin Auction, May 25-27, 2003, Lot 3, sold for $9,200.00

PCGS EF-40 (illustrated above).  Ex - Early American History Auctions, Inc.'s Mail Bid Sale, October 14, 2000, Lot 979, where it was described (in part) as follows: "Light silver in color with seemingly original, almost lustrous surfaces. Both sides are well-centered on the planchet and the details are as well struck as one might expect on this issue. The overall appearance is excellent and the only flaws worth mentioning are a natural fissure that connects Calvert’s forelock with the AE of MARIAE and an old, barely visible hairline scratch that runs from the AE of TERRAE to Calvert’s ear.  In 1658, Cecil Calvert had silver coinage struck for the use of the settlers in Maryland, in the New World. The profile of Lord Baltimore is prominent on the obverse, the Baltimore Family Arms on the reverse, the legend reading "INCREASE AND BE MULTIPLIED" on the reverse in Latin. This piece was a contemporary of the Massachusetts Oak and Pine Tree pieces and was one of the few silver pieces actually struck for the American colonies. In fact, Maryland did not see another silver type until over 100 years later when Chalmers struck his threepences, sixpences, and shillings in 1783."

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia Of U.S. And Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen