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Rare Money Blog

Gold presentation pieces

The Royal Presentation Escudo Coinage—the Pinnacle of Spanish Colonial Numismatics

By Kyle Ponterio and Matthew Orsini

Author: Kyle Ponterio and Matthew Orsini / Friday, June 26, 2020 / Categories: World Coin of the Week

​An enigma to this day, the exceedingly rare "Royal" presentation issues struck at mints in Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico were a distinct departure from the normal "cob" coinage that was standard during the first few centuries of Spanish Colonial rule in the New World. Owing to their utilitarian nature, the normal cobs were made by pouring a silver strap and cutting off pieces of a consistent weight. As a result, their appearance was often crude, with strikes that were usually unevenly applied or doubled, atop flans that were misshapen and out-of-round. Despite this lack of quality control, they did serve their purpose, allowing for mined gold and silver to quickly enter commerce in an easily quantifiable form. In contrast, the Royal presentation issues were manufactured with obvious care. Based upon the appearance of surviving examples, it's clear that each planchet was hand-selected for excellent quality, and cast as a perfect round instead of being cut from the end of an ingot (cabo de barra). In addition to the use of special flans, Royals were struck with special dies with subtle yet distinct differences, such as the addition of florets for the 1714 8 Escudos—clearly indicating their lengthy time of production. To further set them apart from their cob counterparts, most of the dies were arranged in medallic alignment (↑↑ rather than ↑ ↓), and instead of a hastily applied strike, thought and effort were obviously given to the strike's centering and evenness. Overall, the high degree of craftsmanship employed in the manufacturing process for these well-made, hand selected issues was unparalleled in the New World.

What remains unknown about these Royals, however, is their exact purpose, as researchers have found little in contemporary documents addressing their existence. The presumed reason—and the one that makes the most sense—is that they were presented to local authorities and then set aside to be transported to Spain where they could be presented to important members of society, including the king, as an emblem of the successes of Spain's colonial expansion.

Our upcoming August 2020 auction will present not just one, but two of these exceptional and intricately produced coins—a 1714 8 Escudos (PCGS MS-66) and a 1711 4 Escudos (PCGS MS-65), both from the D. Brent Pogue Collection. Regarding the 8 Escudos, according to well-known and highly respected numismatist Don Canaparo (a former owner of the piece), this is the finest example of a 1714 that he had ever seen. Throughout his career, Mr. Canaparo has had the opportunity to handle many of the finest known survivors of some of the most iconic world coins that have come to market. It is fitting that Mr. Pogue chose to add this piece to his magnificent collection of elite numismatic masterpieces. With the offering of these two coins, our great auction will offer an incredible opportunity to acquire a piece from one of the most iconic series of special issues ever struck by the Spanish Empire. And, as the finest known example, one might even say that the 8 Escudos in particular represents the pinnacle of Spanish Colonial numismatics.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other upcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our next Hong Kong auction this October. The consignment deadline for this popular venue is July 17. Our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction will also be in October, with that consignment deadline being September 8. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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