Unique and Previously Unknown 1755 Nuevo Reino “Milled” 8 Escudos

Our November Baltimore Auction at the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expo has just ended, and the team here at Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio could not be more pleased with the results! Successful auctions are a staple for our company, along with offering truly unique numismatic landmarks. The inaugural highlight for our January New York International show is truly a milestone for our world numismatic team. We are proud to offer the first machine made 8 Escudos of Colombia. This coin will certainly change history and the numismatic field forever.

In 2004 the existence of a unique 1755 milled 4 Escudos of Nuevo Reino shocked the numismatic community and the world at large as it received worldwide media coverage. Considered one of the most significant highlight of the famed Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. Collection, the 4 Escudos coin made headlines on the front pages of Coin World, World Coin News, and, as well as newspapers and radio programs in its home city of Bogota (Nuevo Reino).

Prior to the discovery of the Eliasberg 4 Escudos, “milled” or machine made coinage from Colombia before 1756 was unknown. The discovery of the Eliasberg coin radically revised our understanding of Colombian coinage, as previously most mainstream numismatists believed that the mint of Nuevo Reino produced solely crudely made, hand-hammered “cob” coinage until 1756, and changed to “milled” coinage at some time during that year. The Eliasberg 4 Escudos and this newly discovered 8 Escudos suggest that the mint of Nuevo Reino underwent a transition, rather than a sudden changeover in minting methods. Similar situations occurred at the other Spanish Colonial New World mints. It was not uncommon for a mint to produce multiple coinage types in the same year using different methods, while the transition to mechanization was underway. This can be seen with the Mexico City Mint in the 1730s, where “cob”, “klippe” and “milled” coinage were all produced in the same years. The Potosi mint of Bolivia also experienced a similar transition from 1767-70, when “cob” and “milled” coinages were produced in the same years.

The mint of Nuevo Reino (Bogota) began the steps leading to mechanization in 1753. In this year the crown assumed direct control of the mint by replacing the private treasurers with royal superintendents. The crown appointed Lieutenant Colonel Miguel de Santiesteban as Superintendent and Don Thomas Sanches Reziente as director. When royal officials arrived at the mint of Nuevo Reino, they noted that everything was done by hand in a crude manner. The production of hand-hammered “cob” coinage was ordered to continue temporarily to meet the demand for circulating currency. Thomas Sanchez Reziente then set about reconstructing the mint facilities and modernizing its minting equipment with screw presses and other machinery shipped across the Atlantic from Spain. The transition from hand-hammered “cob” coinage to that of the machine-made “milled” coinage produced with a screw press occurred gradually over a two year period from 1755 to 1756. Meticulous mintage figures were recorded by the Spanish superintendents starting in 1753, and A.M. Barriga Villaba’s classic reference on Colombian coinage: “Historia De Las Casa De Moneda” shows two distinct sets of mintage figures for gold coins in this period. The first set of mintage figures shows the amount of gold minted in the form of “cob” coinage for the years 1753-1756, with the totals in marks for each specific year. A second set of mintage figures begins in 1755 and shows mintage figures in marks for milled coinage or “Moneda circular de cordoncillo”. The milled gold coinage of 1755 was produced in the smallest quantity of any Colombian gold coinage of this era. Although the figures do not state the exact number of 4 or 8 Escudos minted, they do cite only these two denominations were in production. In 1755 just over 32 marks of gold were manufactured into milled 4 and 8 Escudos. The production of gold “cob” coinage this year was considerably more, just over 8,393 marks of gold. In short the Nuevo Reino mint produced more than 262 times the amount of “cob” gold than “milled” gold in 1755.

Currently there are only four known examples of the 1755 “cob” 8 Escudos, while the milled 8 Escudos offered here is unique. The survival of this unique 1755 “milled” 8 Escudos is an amazing anomaly. Its rarity is the result of contributing factors combined with attrition. First, the 1755 milled 8 Escudos were produced in limited quantities and were probably only struck for a brief portion of one year. Second, the gradual debasement of coinage within the Spanish Empire also contributed greatly to the rarity of this issue. In 1755 Colombian gold coinage was produced to an official standard 0.9170 fine gold. In 1772 this standard changed to 0.9010, which resulted in earlier dated coins being melted down for a small profit. In fact, the standard changed on several occasions, and earlier dates with a higher gold content were recalled and re-minted. In 1785 the fineness was lowered once again, this time to 0.8750, the fineness at which it remained well into the Republican era. During the Republican era, when Colombia threw off the yoke of Spanish oppression, it is almost certain that earlier Spanish issues were melted down and re-coined either for simple profit or as a show of resentment towards Spain, the colonial oppressors. This set of circumstances has left the numismatic community with this sole surviving example of the first date of machine struck 8 Escudos of Colombia.

The obverse features a draped and armored portrait of King Ferdinand VI of Spain, with the order of the Golden Fleece suspended from his neck. The legend reads “FERDND VI D. G. HISPAN. ET. IND. REX.” with a date of 1755 flanked by six-petaled rosettes. The inscription translates as: “Ferdinand VI by the Grace of God, King of Spain and the Indies” 1755. Subtle toning can be found in the recesses of the legend, highlighting and enhancing this already exquisite gold piece. Ferdinand VI of Spain, the third king from the Spanish Bourbon dynasty, was known as “the Learned” for his studious habits and his love of music.

The reverse design features the great Bourbon shield surmounted by the Spanish crown, encircled by the Order of the Golden Fleece. The various territories under Spanish Bourbon rule are included in the coat of arms: Castile and Leon, Granada, Aragon, Aragon-Sicily, Austria, Burgundy, Flanders, Tyrol and Anjou. The stunning chain of the famous Order of the Golden Fleece (which has existed for over 600 years) frames the intricate and beautiful Heraldic shield. The legend reads “NOMINA MAGNA SEQUOR”. Translated: “I succeed great names” reinforcing the importance and legitimacy of his name in the lineage of Spanish Kings.

We are pleased to offer an extraordinary discovery coin that is of the utmost historical importance. A small natural mint made planchet flaw is noted on the reverse and there are some minor deposits accumulated from time in circulation. This wholesome and original piece shows light to moderate evidence of circulation, as expected from an item of this era. Light orange toning highlights the protected areas.

Look for this and other World numismatic rarities in our upcoming January New York International Sale. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this December at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.566.2580. While our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio January New York International sale is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins for our April 2014 Hong Kong and August ANA sales. 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.

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