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Extremely Rare Mexico Hookneck 8 Escudos

By Chris Chatigny, Cataloger

Author: Chris Chatigny / Wednesday, May 07, 2014 / Categories: World Coin of the Week

The Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August 2014 ANA World’s Fair of Money is rapidly attracting prestigious gold coinage from around the world! This week, we highlight a very rare Mexican Hookneck 8 Escudos. The Hookneck series of Mexico has a long and highly interesting history, best told by Clyde Hubbard and David O’Harrow in Hookneck published in 1997. This thorough study has remained one of the top sources for this series. As described in the book, the silver Reales series of Hookneck (or profile eagle) were minted in 1823, 1824 and 1825 at the mints of Mexico City, Guanajuato and Durango. However, no one mint produced this style for more than two years. The Gold 8 Escudos denomination is even rarer, being only produced by the Mexico City mint for the year 1823, with two varieties, this one being the Type II which is significantly rarer.

The story of this distinctive series is complicated and spans many countries; here I attempt to condense it without belittling the significance. Multiple factors led Mexico to declare independence from Spain, including but not limited to the establishment of the U.S.A., the ideas of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic occupation of Spain and the Spanish regime change in 1820. When Mexico finally achieved independence in 1821, the Empire of General Iturbide altered that independence until he was deposed in late 1823 when the first republic was formally established. This overlap in governments for most of 1823 leads this Hookneck 8 Escudos (minted under the Republic) to have a total minting time of mere months, as the gold 8 Escudos of Iturbide were struck through 1823 in Mexico City. Hubbard and O’Harrow mention that the dies for the Mexico City 8 Escudos were not completed until December 4th, which would leave only 27 days in 1823 for them to strike this type. It is assumed however that production did overlap into 1824, most likely only for a brief amount of time, with no Hookneck 8 Escudos coinage bearing the date 1824.

The eagle side shares many of the same characteristics with the Hookneck silver 8 Reales. An eagle in profile stands atop a cactus, facing left. It holds in one talon the tail end of a snake with the upper portion of the snake in the eagle’s beak. There are two varieties of this issue, and this coin is the Type II, which is easily identified by the looped tail of the snake. The legend “REPUBLICA MEXICANA” appears above the eagle, with a laurel and oak wreath around the lower edge, below the eagle and cactus design. The reverse design features a hand holding a stick (possibly a pen), which has a Phrygian cap, perched atop it pointing to the “T” of the upper legend (signifying a Type II die variety). The Phrygian cap is a symbol taken from the French Revolution which based their idea of a “Liberty Cap” from a misrepresentation of the Roman “Pileus” which was a similarly shaped hat that freed slaves would wear. The hand and cap appear above an open book with “LEY” inscribed at the top of the page, which means “Law”. The upper Spanish inscription reinforces the visual design, as it states: “LA LIBERTAD EN LA LEY” (Liberty in the law). The lower inscription provides the information necessary for circulating coinage: “8 E. Mo. 1823. JM. 21Qs.” These symbols stand for: “8 Escudos, Mexico City (as a mintmark), the date of 1823, the initials of the assayer of the Mexico City mint from 1822 to 1832, and finally the fineness, represented as 21 quilates which are equivalent to karats. With pure gold being 24 karat, 21 would equal to a gold fineness of .875, with .125 copper.

This coin currently resides in a PCGS- Mint State 61 Secure Holder, which tops the population at PCGS for Type II, which is scarcer than Type I by approximately 50%. This piece retains a good amount of luster with some minor toning present. The Hookneck 8 Escudos, with its tiny minting period of just over a few months, has an estimated population of only two dozen. The fact that the Type II is outnumbered two to one by Type I certainly escalates the rarity of this piece. These elusive and extremely rare types only seem to surface in auction every three to five years, so make sure to place your bids when this Mexican numismatic rarity appears in our auction late this summer!

Look for this and other world and ancient numismatic rarities in our upcoming August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction and Sale. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this July at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at www.StacksBowers.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. Our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction is still open for further consignments of world and ancient coins, and our 2014 August Hong Kong Showcase Auction and sale is still taking consignments of Asian coins as well. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.