Bartering was the common medium of exchange in the early days. It was not until 1652 that the first silver coin, the Pine Tree Shilling, was struck in Boston. Most coins in circulation were imported from Europe and Spanish America, however, other coins referred to as colonials, were privately minted to serve as money in the colonies in the late 16th and 17th centuries.
Before considering a new design, style, metal, or denomination for our coinage, a series of samples are first designed. These are called patterns, trials, or experimental pieces. Available to collectors prior to 1900, these patterns are popular today because of their limited numbers and beauty.
Occasionally coins are misstruck at the mint. They may have dates double struck, coins struck on the wrong planchets, coins struck off-center, and various other strikings not normal for our circulating coinage. These error coins appeal to many collectors.
Coins having denominations but usually no date or country's name as the issuing authority are tokens. Tokens are substitues for coins. In contrast, medals may have the name of a country or a date but have no denomination. Included in this category are Commemorative Medals, Personal Medals, Mint and Treasury Medals, Military Medals, Presidential Medals, Assay Medals, Indian Peace Medals, and Professional Medals as well as others.
In the mid-nineteenth century, many people minted their own gold pieces. They set up their own mints and converted gold ore into coins. "Private Gold or Territorials" refers to coins struck outside of the United States Mint. These coins were struck out of necessity to circulate in isolated areas of our country. No private issues were struck by the authority of any of the territorial governments.
The first United States paper money, currency, under the Constitution dates from 1861, the time Demand Notes were issued. Paper money circulated in the United States prior to 1861. Different types were in use in the American Colonies while still under English rule as a matter of necessity because of a shortage of coins. In mid-1775, the Continental Congress authorized currency to be issued to finance the Revolutionary War. Treasury Notes were issued from time to time during the period 1793-1861 to finance such events as the War of 1812, Mexican War of 1846, "Hard Times" of 1837-1843, the Panic of 1857 and the unsettling times prior to the Civil War. Throughout our history we have seen the issuance of Large Size Notes, Fractional Currency, and Small Size Notes. These notes are in the form of demand notes, legal tender issues, compound treasury notes, interest bearing notes, refunding certificates, silver certificates, tresury notes, national bank notes, federal reserve notes, and gold certificates as well as various other issues.