Coins & Currency in Colonial America

2. The British Influence on Trade and Discovery (c.1609 – 1616)

While sailing to Virginia, a British expedition led by Sir George Somers, Sir Thomas Gates, and Captain Christopher Newport was forced by a hurricane to make landfall on Bermuda in the summer of 1609. Once ashore, the expedition was pleased to find the island populated by wild hogs – a much-welcomed source of fresh meat.  The hogs were descendants of the hogs shipwrecked in the ill-fated 1532 voyage of Juan de Bermudez to Cuba.

Within a few years, English settlers began to arrive in the Somers Islands, named for Sir George, who died there in 1611.  By 1615 or 1616, Governor Daniel Tucker, a Virginia planter, had introduced a coinage for use in the islands, denominated in token values of tobacco.  These coins pictured a “hogge” on the obverse and a ship on the reverse – a direct reference to the pork feast awaiting the British upon their arrival seven years earlier.  Today, these coins are very rare and are known to be the first coins issued by the British for use in the New World.

  

c. 1616 Shilling

The largest denomination of "hogge money" struck for the Somers Islands, this shilling is made of thin brass and was originally tin-plated so that it looked more like its British counterparts, which were of good silver. Over the hog is "XII," meaning 12 pence.

Metal: Brass
Date: c. 1616
Size: 30 mm
Origin: England/Bermuda


c. 1616 Twopence

On the other end of the hogge spectrum was the tiny twopence, also struck in London. While it bears the same devices as the other coins in the series, its obverse omits the legend "SOMMER ILANDS."

Metal: Brass
Date: c. 1616
Size: 16 mm
Origin: England/Bermuda
      


© 2006 The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation