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Authentic Pieces of Eight
The term "Piece of Eight" refers to all silver coins that were minted during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries that were struck by hand. The primary denomination, 8 Reales, was equal to one ounce of silver. Each had a value of about one months wages for a sailor in the 1600's. Other denominations exist but the expression "Piece of Eight" has become the generic term for these coins.
Also known as "cob coins", each coin was hand made and hand cut to achieve the weight desired, making each piece a one-of-a-kind in its shape and beauty. Early coins produced before the reign of Philip III were well rounded and neatly engraved. They were from the mints at Mexico, Lima, Potosi, and Colombia. When the mints first opened the assayers took great pride in paying special attention to detail. This proved to be too costly due to the number of dies used and the time it took to produce attractive and distinctive coins. Later coins were mass-produced with little care to making them round or even having all the necessary marking.
An Assayer would measure the purity of the silver and would have carved a die for each side of the coin with very specific information. His role at the mint was one of great importance. He would have had various apprentices and slaves working under him. The different personalities of the assayers can be seen through their work as we uncover the uniqueness and quality of each coin.
The Great Shield of Hapsburg represented the alliances that the monarch would have established through conquest and marriage with the various countries in Europe. Each quadrant within the shield holds the symbols of a particular state and the emblems of the noble family that ruled over it.
On the reverse of each coin the hallmarks of two rampant lions and two castles appear. These not only illustrate the important union between the Castile and Leon provinces in Spain but also more importantly show the alliance between Church and State in the most powerful Catholic country in the Western world.
The outer-most ring of the coin holds key information regarding the Spanish Empire.
The Latin phrase inscribed reads:
"PHILLIPVS (III) DEL GRATIA HISPANIARUM ET INDIARUM REX"
Translated into modern English:
"Philip (III) by the grace of God, King of Spain and the Indies"
The Indies refers to all lands west of the Straights of Gibraltar.
Potosi was located in the high Andes in present day Bolivia, and between 1575-1825 produced much of the world's silver. It was the royal mint in the New World and the "P" mintmark was used to identify it.
|1576-1586||B||Juan de Ballesteros Naváez|
|1589-1615||B||Juan de Ballesteros Naváez|
|1590-1615||R||Baltasar Ramos Leceta|
|1613-1616||Q||Agustin de la Quadra|
|1616-1617||M||Juan Muñoz (1st dated Coin)|
|1618-1621||T||Juan Ximenez de Tapia|
(many reversal & broken dies)
The first colonial mint was established in 1535, and the first coins minted in 1536. Many of these coins were passenger's personal money and are a very rare find on the Atocha. Exclusively the mint in Mexico used the Florenzada cross on the reverse of these coins.