New World Treasures
Spanish Colonial Coins and Artifacts
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Spanish Colonial Silver Reales Coin Types

Throughout the year we are frequently asked to help in the identification of old coins presumed to be of Spanish origin.  Since Spanish colonial mints existed in the New World long before those of the United States, their currency was an accepted standard and freely passed hands in the American colonies.  Thus, it is not unreasonable to assume that a coin excavated on American soil or recovered from our surrounding waterways to be of Spanish origin.

Twelve Spanish colonial mints, Mexico, Santo Domingo, Lima, La Plata, Potosi, Panama, Cartegena, Bogotá, Cuzco, Guatemala, Santiago, and Popayan produced a total of five different types of silver reales coins, pillar, shield, pillar and waves, milled pillar, and milled bust during Spain's almost 300 years of colonial rule.  The information provided should help in the identification of  Spanish colonial silver reales coins by coin type, time period, and mint of manufacture.

 

Coin Types

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

 

pillar type.jpg (44316 bytes)Pillar Type The very first Spanish colonial silver coin design in the New World. Struck at the Mexico, Santo Domingo, and Lima mints in the time period of 1536 to 1572 - all undated.

Design Characteristics:  Hand struck cob typically on a round full-sized planchet.  One side has a pair of pillars with or without waves depending on the time period.  The other side displays a simple shield with lions and castles in the four quadrants and with a pomegranate wedged in at the very bottom.  Click here to view pillar type cobs offered for sale.

 

shield.jpg (47285 bytes)Shield Type:  The second type of Spanish colonial silver coin design in the New World.  Struck at the Mexico, Santo Domingo, Lima, La Plata, Potosi, Panama, Cartagena, and Bogotá mints in the time period of 1572 to 1734.  Dates first appeared in 1607 at the Mexico mint.

Design Characteristics:  Hand struck cob, typically degrading in quality throughout the period.  One side has a crowned multi-element shield representing the lands under Spanish control.  The other side displays a cross with lions and castles in the four quadrants.  Visit Atocha Coin Design for more information.  Click here to view shield type cobs offered for sale.

 

pillarswaves.jpg (38640 bytes)Pillars and Waves Type:  The third type of Spanish colonial silver coin design in the New World.  Struck at the Bogotá, Potosi, Cartagena, and Lima mints in the time period of 1651 to 1773 - all with dates.

Design Characteristics:  Hand struck cob, typically degrading in quality throughout the time period much like it's predecessor.  One side has a pair of pillars with waves and two horizontal lines forming a tic-tac-toe design.  The other side displays a cross with lions and castles in the four quadrants.  Click here to view pillar and waves type cobs offered for sale.

The coins of Bogotá and Cartagena along with the transition coins of Potosi are slightly different in design, lacking the two horizontal lines forming the tic-tac-toe on the first side and incorporating a simple shield with lions and castles in the four quadrants in place of the cross on the other, as in the earlier pillar type.

Lima coins of 1659 and 1660 also lacked the two horizontal lines forming the tic-tac-toe on the first side, but did not change from the cross design on the other.

 

milledpillar.jpg (45701 bytes)Milled Pillar Type:  The fourth type of Spanish colonial silver coin design in the New World.  Struck at the Mexico, Santiago (very rare), Lima, Guatemala, Bogotá (very rare) and Potosi mints in the time period of 1732 to 1772 - all with dates.

Design Characteristics:  Machine struck on a full-sized round planchet.  One side has a pair of pillars with waves separated by two overlapping globes crowned with a single crown.  The other side displays a simple crowned shield with the typical lions, castles, and pomegranate but also with the centralized addition of three Fleurs-de-Lis.  Click here to view milled pillar type coins offered for sale.

Guatemala coins struck between 1733 and 1753 were irregular in shape and thus considered to be cobs.

 

milledbust.jpg (42899 bytes)Milled Bust Type:  The fifth and final type of Spanish colonial silver coin design in the New World.  Struck at the Mexico, Lima, Bogotá, Guatemala, Potosi, Santiago, Popayan,  and Cuzco mints in the time period of 1771 to 1825 - all with dates.

Design Characteristics:  Machine struck on a round full-sized planchet.  One side displays the bust of the King, the other side a pair of pillars separated by a crowned simple shield with lions, castles, pomegranate and the centralized three Fleurs-de-Lis.  Click here to view milled bust type coins offered for sale.

 

Spanish Colonial Mints

Listed by order in which they opened.

 

Mexico

(1536-1821)

Mintmark-M or M with small o above. The mint produced the following coin types: Pillar type cob - (1536-1572), shield type cob - (1572-1733), milled pillar - (1732-1771), and milled bust - (1771-1821).
Also produced an irregular shaped machine struck shield type coin (1733-1734)
Mexico never produced the pillars and waves coin design.
The first dated coin was struck in 1607.

 

Santo
Domingo

(1542-1564)
(1573-1578)

Mintmark-SP or monogram s overlapping the left side of a large D with a small o above.  The mint produced the following coins types: Pillar type cob - (1542-1564) rare, shield type cob - (1573-1578) very rare.
Since the mint closed in 1578, none of the later coin types or dated coins were ever produced.

 

Lima

(1568-1572)
(1577-1588)
(1659-1660)
(1684-1824)

Mintmark-P, or P with star above, or L, or LM, or LIMA, or a slightly overlapped ME. Lima has the distinction of being the only mint to strike all five of the coin types.  Pillar type cob - (1568-1571), shield type cob - (1572 and 1577-1588), pillars and waves type cob - (1659-1660 and 1684-1752), milled pillar - (1752-1772), and milled bust - (1772-1824).
The first dated coin was struck in 1659.

 

La Plata

(1573-1574)

Mintmark-P. The mint was in operation for a few short months and produced only shield type cobs, which are indistinguishable from those of early Potosi
No dated coins were produced.

 

Potosi

(1574-1825)

Mintmark-P or later a monogram PTSI which looks similar to a dollar sign ($).  The mint opened after the pillar type cob period, thus it is the only coin type not to see  production. Shield type cob - (1574-1652), pillars and waves type cob - (1652-1773), milled pillar - (1767-1770), and milled bust - (1773-1825).
The first dated coin was struck in 1617.

 

Panama

(1580-1582)

Mintmark-AP arranged vertically.  The mint was in operation for only a couple of years and produced a limited number of undated shield type cobs - all very rare.

 

Cartagena

(1622-1655)

Mintmark-S, or RN arranged vertically, or NR arranged vertically, or C.  The mint produced the following coin types: Shield type cob - (1622-1635) rare and pillars and waves cob - (1653-1655) also rare.
The first dated coin was struck at the mint opening in 1622.

The Cartegena mint is known more for its gold escudos coin production.

 

Bogotá

(1622-1820)

Mintmark-S, or NR both vertically or horizontally, or NR with a small o above each arranged both vertically or horizontally, or NR alone or with a single small o above, or N, or SF or FS both vertically or horizontally, or F.  The mint produced the following coins types: Shield type cob - (1622-1651) rare, pillars and waves cob - (1651-1748) rare, milled pillar - (1759-1762) very rare, and milled bust - (1772-1820) also rare.
The first dated coin was struck at the mint opening in 1622.

The Bogotá mint is known more for its gold escudos coin production.

 

Cuzco

(1698)
(1824)

Mintmark-C or CUZ.  The mint produced only one type of silver coinage, that being the dated milled bust type in 1824 which incorporated the mintmark CUZ.

Only gold 1 and 2 escudos were minted in 1698 using the pillars and waves design and the mintmark C.

 

Guatemala

(1733-1821)

Mintmark-G or NG.  The mint opened in 1733 when the first machine struck coins were being introduced to the colonies.  The mint produced a hand cut pillar type coin (1733-1753) very similar to the later milled pillar coin but irregular in shape like a conventional cob. Minted next was the milled pillar - (1754-1771) followed by the milled bust  - (1773-1817).

 

Santiago

(1749-1817)

Mintmark-S with a small o above.  The mint produced two types of coins, a very rare milled pillar - (1751-1770) and a more common milled bust - (1771-1821).

The Santiago mint is known more for its gold escudos coin production.

 

Popayan

(1758-1822)

Mintmark-P.  The mint produced only one type of silver coinage, the rare milled bust - (1810-1822).

The Popayan mint is known more for its gold escudos coin production.

 


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