Spanish Gold Coins


During the times of the New World, Spanish gold coins were a popular and highly sought after coin.  Also known as the gold doubloon, these gold coins were minted in 1, 2, 4, and 8 escudo denominations.  The one-half escudo coin was also minted by Spain.

The escudo was nicknamed the "shield".  It was equal to 16 reales of silver. The two and four escudo valued coins were known as the "pistole", and the "double pistole".  English colonists eventually referred to the eight escudo coin as the Spanish doubloon.

This eight escudo coin became the basic gold coin, or the doubloon.  In 1537, 8 escudos were set at 27.4680 g of .92 fine gold (22-carat gold)      .  This was later changed to 27.06429 g, and later .90103 grams in 1772.  Over the span of 250 years the weight of Spanish gold coins only changed a fraction.

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As the Spanish spread and formed new colonies in the New World, they discovered more gold deposits.  The first milled gold coinage was minted in Mexico in the year 1732.  Before this time, gold cobs were produced, starting in the year 1622.

Gold does not deteriorate as easily as silver, which makes Spanish gold coins easier to authenticate.  Many have held their initial designs and images, and are cherished by coin collectors throughout the world.

Spanish Silver Cobs

As Spain developed new colonial territories, new deposits of silver were found. This silver needed to be quickly exported back to Spain. Starting in the time of Philip II, irregular coinage was produced. This coinage was called Cobs.

In order to make round coins, a bar of silver must be rolled out into a sheet with a specific thickness. There was no time for this, so another method was developed. Silver bars were cut into chunks with the same exact weight. Each cob would weigh the same, but be totally different in size and thickness.

The Spanish Silver cob derives its name from the Spanish word, "cabo" which means "the end", and refers to the piece of silver clipped off the end of the silver bar.

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Many of these coins had cracks and were highly irregular in shape, but every coin weighed exactly the same.

Images were pressed on each cob, but due to their irregularity, oftentimes only a portion of the image would be struck onto the silver piece.

If the cob came in overweight after the initial clipping, another clipping was done, which made the coin even that more disfigured.

These mass-produced coins were prevalent from 1572 through 1773, and came in a number of denominations under separate rulers of those times.

Authenticating a Spanish cob can be difficult. Particular details on images of the coins can be attributed to specific kings during specific periods. Also, specific details are attributable to specific mints. For example a Jerusalem cross with a ball of each extremity indicates the Silver cob was minted in Mexico.

Because of the irregularity of these coins, forgeries and coin clipping were prevalent.

Still though, Spanish Silver cobs can be authenticated and fun to collect.

Spanish Doubloon

The Spanish gold doubloon derives its name either from it's value of two escudos.

In the Spanish language, "doblón" means "double".  The Spanish doubloon was the predecessor for many other gold coins throughout Europe.  The French, Swiss and German's soon minted their own gold coins.

The value of these Spanish doubloons was 32-reales, or 2 escudos.

This doubloon weighs in at (0.218 troy ounces), or 6.77 g.  Many doubloons were minted in Peru, Mexico and Spain.

Eventually these gold coins were minted in four denominations worth 1, 2, 4, and 8 escudos individually.

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The design on the front of the Spanish doubloon carries the coat of arms of the Hapsburg royal family.  The Hapsburg Shield is part of the lineage of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, the king and queen best known for sending Christopher Columbus on his historic voyage.

The reverse side of the coin carries the Crusaders cross, which was a sign of both religion and government for Spain in the 16th and 17th century.

The Spanish doubloon was minted entirely by hand.  Excess metal was trimmed away to make each coin weigh exactly the same.  Because each coin was handcrafted individually, doubloons are not perfectly round.

Columnario

A Columnario is a Spanish 8 reales colonial silver coin that was minted by Spain from 1732 to 1773 in the areas of Guatemala, Mexico City,Santa Fe de Bogotá, Popayán, Santiago, Potosí,  and  Lima.

The Columnario was circulated throughout the New World.  Until 1857, Columnarios were circulated as legal tender in the US colonies.

The design on the reverse side of the Columnario has two pillars.  Each pillar bears a crown at the top with a banner running up each pillar.  Words on the banners spell out. "PLUS ULTRA", which means "more beyond".  This side of the coin also includes the letters VTRAQUE VNUM, which when translated means "Both are One".  This was a reference to the Old and New World.  The date of mint is located at the bottom, as well as a mint mark on each side of the date.

The obverse side of the coin includes the Crown's name followed by D G HISPAN ET IND REX, which means, "By the Grace of God, King of Spain and the West Indies."  On the left is the assayer's mark, and on the right is the denomination.  A shield with royal crown sits at the top.

Circling around the outside edge of the coin is a design of Laurel leaves.  Oftentimes this part of the coin is used to determine any counterfeits, as it is difficult to replicate this part of the coin.