A Numismatic Connection to Cinco de Mayo

Occasionally mistaken as Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo instead celebrates a different important date in Mexican history. Independence Day emanates from the "Cry of Dolores," which initiated Mexico’s war against Spain on 16 September 1810. Cinco de Mayo references a later military conflict in 1862 involving the Mexican army and the encroaching French forces. Due to financing the military during the Mexican-American War and the Reform War, the Mexican Treasury was nearly empty by 1861, causing President Benito Juarez to suspend payment of foreign debts. As a result, leading European nations demanded repayment and sent naval forces to bolster their claims. While Britain and Spain reached amicable terms with Mexico, France had an ulterior motive—namely using the dispute as the pretense for an invasion and the hopeful establishment of a client empire in Mexico. One of the early incursions during this conflict occurred at Puebla on the fifth of May. The 8,000-strong French army attacked the much more poorly equipped Mexican army with forces that were half their rivals. Despite this disparity, the Mexican army achieved an improbable, decisive victory, thus establishing a sense of unity and national pride. The French forces, however, would eventually prove to be too much, with such a client empire—in the form of the Second Mexican Empire— created from 1863-1867. Just one year after the victory (1863), the initial Cinco de Mayo festivities were observed. It has come to be even more of a holiday in portions of the United States as a celebration of Mexican-American heritage and culture.

Our June Collectors Choice Online (CCO) features a rather interesting and rare numismatic relic with a connection to the Battle of Puebla—a gold medal awarded to higher-ranking Mexican officials (such as chiefs to lieutenant colonels). This Mint State decoration features an obverse legend reading "la Republica Mexicana a sus valientes hijos," (the Mexican Republic to her valiant sons), while the reverse displays more celebratory legends indicating the French defeat and the date, "el 5 de Mayo." While bronze examples (for troops) and silver/gilt silver examples (for lesser officers) are seen with a bit more frequency, a gold example presents a rare opportunity.

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

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money in August and our fall Hong Kong Auction in September. Additionally, we are always accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be in October. 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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