Americans take their change for granted, and sometimes even consider it a nuisance. This was not the case in the early American colonies. For all intents and purposes, money as we know it didn't exist at all.
Britain's North America's first coins known were the brass "Somers Pence," minted in 1612 for the small group of islands that we now know as the Bahamas. It was followed by Massachusetts Bay Colony's 1652 "Pine Tree Pennies" issued in "shillings," "six-pence" and "three-pence."
Starting in 1690, the British monarchs (first King James II, and then Kings George I and II) coined colonial "Half-Pence" and "Pence." They were minted from tin, which the British Parliament stated was good enough for "the outside barbarians." In case you missed it, that was their description of us.
In 1694, Royal Governor Arthur Dobbs of the Carolinas Colony ordered one-half-penny, one penny, and two-penny "Carolina" currency struck. The coins were, however, worth only four-fifths of like valued English coins. These Carolina coins soon were used throughout the southern frontier, including in the so-called "Debatable Lands" of Georgia.
The most common foreign currency found throughout the American colonies was the Spanish "Real" or "Milled Dollar." It was often literally cut into eight pieces or "bits." In fact, the early American term "two bits" which referred to the American Quarter originally referred to two of these "pieces of eight."
In most of colonial Georgia, however, coins were a little-known oddity. People simply paid for their debts with whatever they had. Many used their livestock or crops, while many others used a promise of work to be completed in the future as they bartered for items or services. It was only in Savannah that British currency was to be found.
William Woods' "Rosa Americana" coins were engraved in England and struck in France between 1722 and 1724 for use in America. Minted in both gold and silver, they featured the signs of both the houses of York (a white rose) and Lancaster (a red rose) and were traded for three-quarters the value of English coins.
The first American designed and minted coins were created by a blacksmith named Higley in Granby, Connecticut in 1737. He struck four different denominations of his coins from locally-mined copper, all of which showed, not surprisingly, a blacksmith at work.
Once the colony of Georgia was established, the first Georgia "bank notes" were the paper "Sola Bills," printed for Georgia's Royal Trustees between 1735 and 1750. Used to pay the colony's bills, they were redeemable by traders and merchants either in Havana at a 40 percent discount or at a 20 percent discount back in England.
Georgia's Royal Governor James Edward Oglethorpe also had printed "Military Money Notes" in 1734, which he used for small purchases within the colony. The trustees sent a ship with one-half ton of "Half-Pence" coins, one ton of "Pence" coins, one thousand pennyweight of copper coins and 20,000 silver shillings to Georgia in 1735.
Georgia soon created its own state currency as well. As early as 1766, the first official Georgia paper currency was printed to be “Used for the encouragement of settlers” and for repaying “the cost of rebuilding the Court House.” Curiously enough, these bills were prohibited by the Royal Currency Act of 1764 that forbade all of the colonies south of New England from creating their own currencies.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at rwasrer53 @gmail.com