Known as the Bermuda Islands today, the Sommer Islands were uninhabited until discovered and eventually settled by means of a series of shipwrecks. The first recorded visit to the islands occurred in 1505 by Spanish explorer Juan Bermudez, who again sailed to the islands in 1532 and shipwrecked there.
Englishmen Henry May and Captain Lancaster were shipwrecked on the islands in 1591, followed by a party of 500 English settlers led by Sir George Somers, Thomas Gates, and Capt. Christopher Newport, who in 1609 were blown off-course from a trip to Virginia by a hurricane and stranded there for more than a year. They were sustained, in part, by wild hogs originally brought to the islands by the Spanish explorers years earlier.
Sir George Somers would return to the islands again in 1610 with more settlers, where he soon died and the area was renamed in his honor. Sommer Islands coinage (as spelled on the ‘Hogge Money‘) was introduced to the local island economy in about 1616 under the somewhat despotic authority of Daniel Tuckar (Tucker), who served under the auspices of the Bermuda Company.
Brass pieces were introduced in denominations of twopence, threepence, sixpence, and shilling, with the numerals II, III, VI, and XII representing the values. Thin brass planchets were struck, then silvered, and used on the islands for their exchange value, but without any real intrinsic worth. Tobacco continued to be the main medium of exchange for larger monetary transactions.
The Heritage Auctions June 4-7 Long Beach Expo Signature Auction features an exceptional example of the Sommer Islands sixpence, graded AU50 by NGC, which retains some of its original silver wash and much of the design motifs. It is the rare Small Portholes variant, with substantial detail remaining on the sailing ship motif on the reverse. Three of the four portholes are visible. The obverse “hogge” is sharply visible, as are the SOMMER ILANDS legend and denomination. The never cleaned surfaces exhibit beautiful red and green oxidized patina that attest to this coin’s originality.