Early American Currency of the Thirteen Colonies
Did you know that each of the colonies issued and printed their own paper money over 200 years ago?
That's right! Before our country declared its independence from the British, each colony acted on its own behalf and made its own coins and currency. Then, the Declaration of Independence stated “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States."
Each colony printed and signed its own currency guaranteeing it: Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Understand that each of these currency instruments was used by our esteemed colonists, Founding Fathers and early leaders to create commerce, build infrastructure and create a strong and vibrant nation. Each note bears original signatures of important people guaranteeing its acceptance as trade.
Prior to the issuing and printing of paper money, the Massachusetts legislature made the earliest coins in the colonies, starting in 1652. These coins included coin of a pine tree, oak tree and willow tree. As a matter of fact, the earliest coin, the New England shilling had "NE" stamped at the top of the coin.
It wasn't until 1690 that the Province of Massachusetts-Bay issued and printed the "first authorized paper currency by any government of the Western World". King William's War (1688 to 1697) led to this in order to fund military expenditures. Soon, other colonies followed suit to pay for their military conflicts.
It became a mess for each of the colonies to use the currency between colonies with different denominations.
Bills of Credit were issued for redemption sometime in the future to pay outstanding debts by each of the colonies. These bills could eventually be used to satisfy taxes. Of course, they had to be careful to avoid issuing to many BOC to prevent inflation.
And it was this reason that Great Britain took it on the chin when their merchants/creditors suffered losses in accepting payment for their debts.
It was this reason the British Parliament passed several currency acts to regulate the currency issued by the colonies. Each act served different purposes, but all put regulations and restriction on what each colony was allowed to do.
Continental currency was issued during the American Revolution for the purpose of funding the war effort. Thus, large quantities or currency was printed leading to rapid depreciation of their values, thus, eventually becoming worthless.
By the way, most of the colonial paper money bore the slogan: "To Counterfeit is Death"!