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April 15, 2005

CW acquires rare 1774 Virginia shilling

Colonial Williamsburg
This 1774 Virginia shilling is one of five known to exist in the United States.

Colonial Williamsburg recently acquired a rare 1774 Virginia pattern shilling (12d), one of only five proof specimens known to exist. The acquisition was funded in part by Joseph R. and Ruth P. Lasser of White Plains, N.Y., long-time supporters of Colonial Williamsburg’s
numismatic collection.

According to the Royal Charter of 1606, Virginia was the only British colony in America authorized to have its own coinage. Paper money first appeared in Williamsburg in the 1750s, yet it wasn’t until the eve of the Revolutionary War that coins were struck for Virginia. The Virginia Halfpenny, struck at the Tower Mint in London in 1773, circulated extensively from 1775 to 1820.

The English Crown also intended to issue a silver shilling in addition to the halfpenny and, accordingly, the Tower Mint struck pattern coins in 1774. The decline in Anglo-American relations prior to the outbreak of war, however, appears to have prevented the issue of silver Virginia coins.

“This great rarity, struck specifically for Virginia, was number one on our wish list for Colonial Williamsburg’s coin collection,” said Erik Goldstein, curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. “We are immeasurably grateful for the continued generosity of the Lassers, which made this acquisition possible.”

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is home to the DeWitt Wallace Collections and Conservation Building, the largest collections preservation complex south of Washington, D.C. The Wallace collections and conservation complex houses more than 60,000 art objects and antiques in state-of-the-art, climate-controlled storage, and features extensive conservation workspace for object analysis and treatment laboratories. For more information, visit online at

Media Contact:
Sophia Hart
(757) 220-7272