Three Reales

By Garth Wright

 
 

Spain had more then a dozen mints all over Central and South America. All producing A standard 8 Reales coin of 27 gr. of fine silver. These coins were traded with confidence all over the world! So when a problem arose Spain had to protect it's reputation.

Image courtesy of Paul deGroot

Image courtesy of Paul deGroot

The chief assayer at Potosi mint in Columbia was Senior Juan Rodriquez de Rodas from 1649 to 1651. This mint in the center of the richest silver producing area in the New World, striking coins to ship to the orient for trade. Rodes' administration was caught by Spanish officials sent to Columbia, because of complaints of low grade silver in the current 8 Reales. The Chief Assayer and Mint Master both had their necks stretched in the garden. All of the undergraded coins had to be found and tested for purity. They were counterstamped with a letter under a crown - L signified a coin worth 7 Reales and a P only 6 Reales. Many of these coins were melted down and refined, so the discovery of examples is worth writing about. In the accompanying illustration (click on coin to see enlargement), the top 2 coins were salvaged from 'La Capitana' off the coast of Ecuador. They are a little rough from being sea-salvaged but the coins were crudely made in the first place: chiseled off the end of a 1 1/2 inch silver bar. Both examples are from the 1650s. The one on the left in countersruck with an 'L' and the design is upside down of the Cross of Castile/Leon. The coin on the left shows a 'crowned P' in the center of the Hapsburg family shield. Incidentally this coin tests purer than 6 Rls.

The third coin is included because it has such an interesting shape. It was struck at the Mexico city mint in 1733 and was counterstamped with Sun over Mountains in a Circle - the Coat-of-Arms of Guatemala. The counterstamping Guatemalan received a plug of silver seen removed from the right, in the legend. A great image of The Cross and the Castle/ Rampant Lion. A union of Spain's two reigning families.

The Church and State together.