Noteworthy Notes: Classic Colonial New Jersey 6 Shilling

By Philip Thomas for PCGS ……

In the PCGS grading room, we certainly come across our fair share of the earliest types of American banknotes, namely Colonials and Continentals issued by the original 13 British colonies (both individually and collectively). These were issued during the decades leading up to the conclusion of the American Revolution and the inception of American independence from its mother country of Great Britain. Beginning in 1690 and continuing for about a century, many hundreds of different designs and denominations of Colonial and Continental notes were printed and released into circulation for various economic purposes. The substantial bulk of these notes came in the years after 1770 when the financing of a tremendously bloody and costly war effort required vast increases in the production of circulating monetary instruments.

Older issues of Colonial notes submitted to PCGS–especially those that are much older and printed during more peaceful eras of tighter, restricted monetary policies–tend to inspire the team here to briefly gather around to admire and discuss what has come before us. Such a group reaction was recently stirred by one remarkable note: an extremely rare March 25, 1724, New Jersey 6 Shilling representing one of only a small handful known to still exist today.

As one might reasonably expect, this note exhibits signs of heavy circulation and damage commensurate with its highly advanced age, having been printed over 50 years prior to America’s Declaration of Independence. PCGS has assigned a sobering grade of Good-6 Details (Backed, Damage and Minor Design Redrawn). But don’t let the tattered, problematic condition fool you in terms of assessing its overall appeal, wonder, and allure. The expression “beggars can’t be choosers” aptly applies in this case, as other options for this issue simply aren’t exercisable.

This tall-format 6 Shilling denomination was one of eight total denominations that comprised the middle colony’s fourth general emission of banknotes, authorized by the New Jersey colonial legislature on November 30, 1723. Denominations ranged from 1 Shilling to 3 Pounds and totaled 40,000 Pounds in face value, backed by silver specie at the then-current rate of 8 Shillings per ounce. These notes were advanced from New Jersey’s loan office on security of real estate or other tangible assets at 5% interest with a 12-year amortization timeframe, although within several years, the issue was ordered to cease circulation due to a high number of Irish-made counterfeits appearing throughout New York. By November 1, 1729, the entire issue was made legally invalid and the very few that remained in existence were snagged up and put away by wise collectors of yesteryear who are the only reason that ownership today is possible.

English printer and publisher William Bradford (1663-1752), serving in his capacity as the public printer for the Province of New Jersey, was responsible for this note’s production using cast cuts, woodblocks, and set type. Bradford is best known for establishing the first printing presses in Pennsylvania (1685) and New York (1693), then operating continuously for over 60 years printing books, almanacs, newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, colonial laws, and religious materials in addition to banknotes. His sons and grandsons then continued the family’s printing legacy well into the 19th century.

PCGS was proud to authenticate and grade this exceptional and infrequently encountered piece of early Americana and encapsulate it, allowing current and future generations of collectors to safely reflect upon and enjoy it.

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