Benefactor robinjojo Posted December 18, 2022 · Benefactor Benefactor Share Posted December 18, 2022 (edited) Ever since I saw an 8 reales cob in 1980, a crude coin by any measure, with a counterstamp of some sort (probably revaluation) I became hooked on these coins of romance and lore. I became a serious collector over the ensuing decades, amassing a collection of a fairly considerable size, before switching my collecting interests to ancient coins, something that resided in the background over this time, in 2018. Still, although by Spanish colonial and mainland coin acquisitions have become very sparse for the past few years, I enjoy going through the coins of Potosi, Lima, Mexico, Cartagena and Bogota, as well as the Spanish mainland mints, from time to time. Last night I pulled out a coin that came from a Spanish dealer many years ago. It is an 8 reales cob produced at the Potosi mint in 1646, Assayer R (Felipe Ramirez de Arellano). By the mid 1640s the silver coinage of Potosi became significantly debased, undermining the integrity of Spanish trade coinage. This issue has always lurked in the background at the mint, going back into the 1630s, but the problem really did come to the fore throughout the decade of the 40s. The cause of this problem was straightforward: corruption at the mint on the part of some of the assayers and other staff. The plan was also straightforward: reduce the fineness (debasement) of the silver in the flans used to produce coinage, and pocket the difference. In 1648, an assay in Spain determined that some Potosí issues were more than half copper, The scandal reached its peak towards the end of that decade, leading to a trial, conviction and execution of Felipe Ramirez de Arellano in 1650 for fraud against the Crown and to serve as an example against further nefarious activities at the mint. The system of justice back then certainly did not lean in the direction of compassion! Because of the huge number of debased coins in circulation, from 1651-1652 the Spanish authorities decided, along with the melting of many coins produced 1640-1652, prior to the coinage reform of 1652, with the new pillars and waves design, to institute a series of counterstamps devaluing the coins of the mid 40s to early 50's (I think 1652 is the last date of devaluation stamping of shield coinage) to 71/2 reales. Many examples of these counterstamped coins exist from the salvage operations of the Capitana and Maravillas, sunk in 1654 and 1656 respectively. Many shield coins were melted by decree, including coins of assayer V and assayer R, according to some accounts, probably in an effort to erase the legacy of these assayers. Now, about the coin: Collecting Potosi hammered coinage of the 1640's can be a challenge, due the extremely crude dies, often obscuring essential data such as mint mark, assayer mark and date, often abetted by extremely poor strikes, often off center (intentional?), poor low-grade silver flans prone to splitting, and often ambiguous assayer marks. The super rare assayers for this period are V (Geronimo Velasquez), P (Luis de Peralta) and the aforementioned R (Felipe Ramirez de Arellano). A FR monogram assayer mark also exists for what is believed to be Felipe Ramirez de Arellano, but while very scarce, it is not nearly as rare as the single letter assayer mark R. This coin exhibits all of the flaws of the period; a Syracusan tetradrachm it is not! The coin is debased at 26.2 grams, but not as severely as other examples which sometimes plunge into the 25 grams range, even lower. The strike is doubled and skewed to one side, creating a squished shield on the obverse.. The dies, even if the coin was perfectly struck, are very crude. The overall color of the coin is a rather lighter gray than what one would expect of an 8 reales cob with regulation silver content. In short, this is one ugly duckling! But what an ugly duckling! For all of its shortcomings, the assayer letter R, to the left of the shield, is clear. As a bonus it was clearly punched over a P assayer mark, with the upper portion of the P clearly visible! Both assayers P and R were in office during 1646, as was assayer V. This overpunching of R over P makes this coin even rarer. On the reverse (some would argue the obverse), cross side, the double striking is also readily apparent. However, with close examination, as is often necessitated with coinage of this period, the date 1646, in small numerals and unevenly punched into the die, can be discerned running from about 10 o'clock to about 12 o'clock along the edge. Some of the numeral offset alignment could be due to the double strike as well. Because of the muddled strike, the numerals are weak in spots, with the final 4 and 6 the boldest. This is an extremely rare coin in all of its ugliness, truly a once in a lifetime acquisition, unless, of course a hoard of them surfaces from a land find or sea salvage, but given the history of this assayer, I doubt that will happen. Potosi, Philip IV, 8 reales, 1646, Assayer R over P. KM 19a 26.09 grams I hope this thread has been useful in conveying the fascinating history of these historically significant coins, particularly pertaining to the Potosi mint scandal in the 1640s. Edited January 30 by robinjojo 13 1 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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