(1615-6) SHILNG Sommer Islands Shilling, Small Sails PCGS XF40. High Rarity-5. As new collectors enter the hobby, the Redbook frequently serves as their introduction to American coinage, and the Hogge money has the distinction as being named therein as “the first struck for the English colonies in the New World”. Today, we know of the “Somer Islands” as Bermuda. Historically, Juan de Bermudez was the first to land near the islands 1505, claiming them for Spain, and again in 1532 when he was shipwrecked there. Technically, he never set foot on the actual landmass, fearing to venture past the dangerous reef that surrounds the islands, but subsequent visitors evidently reached the land itself, or came close enough so that live pigs in their cargo were able to make shore and flourish in the subtropical climate. (Indeed, so dangerous to 16th century explorers was the reef in combination with violent storms, that the islands were referred to as the Isle of Devils.) To subsequent visitors who were able to use the hogs as food, the islands became known as the Hogge Islands, and money coined for use there became referred to as “Hogge money”. As European exploration took place during the early 17th century, the Virginia Company established an English settlement, and later turned over rights to the Somers Isles Company until 1684. The islands became a possession of the Crown and an official British colony in 1707, remaining today as a British Overseas Territory, and the oldest continuously-inhabited territory that still belongs to Great Britain. The Bermuda Islands today consists of 181 individual islands and a total area under 21 square miles. As bidders know from our discussion of the Somers Islands shilling in this same catalog, the saline climate of the islands serves as a very harsh environment for coins.
At least four denominations were struck as a circulating medium — two pence, three pence, sixpence and shilling (or twelve pence), with the three pence the rarest. The “Hogge money” name derives from the coins’ design, which depicts a wild boar or hog on one side. Hogs proliferated on the islands after being unloaded there during the early 16th century. The other side of the Sommer Islands token coinage depicts sailing ships, with varieties known based on the size of the sails and portholes.
The present specimen displays a subtle greenish patina on both sides over dark olive surfaces, typical with the few remaining survivors. We see minor traces of wear on the high points. We note that past references frequently refer to the Sommer Islands coins as a brass composition, and often silvered. Technological metallurgical analysis shows these coins have a high copper content, and that the “silvering” is actually tin. Spiegel writes:
“The planchets were annealed prior to striking and were subsequently hand-struck with a hammer. Some coins were then dipped in molten tin – undoubtedly contemporary to the striking – which would give the appearance of silver.”
We have provided images of both the obverse and reverse using different brightness and contrasts for your perusal. Ex: Connecticut Historical Society Collection – Bowers & Merena 4/1984:2; Paul Arthur Norris Collection – Goldbergs 9/2002:2, $33,350; Dr. Samuel Berngard Collection – Stacks/Bowers 8/2011:7153; Avant Garde Collection – Scotsman 10/2013:276.