Early Peruvian Treasures from the S.P. Rutherford Collection

The Stack’s Bowers Galleries August 2024 Global Showcase Auction will feature the landmark S.P. Rutherford Collection of Latin American coins, including some standout rarities in the early Peruvian series.

In 1551, following the Spanish conquest of Peru, colonial officials sent a petition to the crown asking permission to establish a mint in the city of Lima. Authorities in Spain were slow to process this request, only formally granting it in 1565. Production finally began three years later under the assayer Alonso Rincon, who oversaw the striking of Peru’s very first coinage borrowing the design of the “pillars and waves” issues first used in Mexico under Charles I and his mother, Johanna. The new mint had only received permission to issue silver coins denominated 4 Reales and below.  Rincon seemingly paid little heed to the crown’s strict guidelines, issuing coins of deficient silver content and even striking 8 Reales pieces. As the first-ever “Dollar” sized coin struck in South America, this vanishingly rare unauthorized issue is of course considered the jewel of the series among collectors today. The example from the S.P. Rutherford Collection is a stunning representative due to its fully readable outer legends and excellent strike.

Authorities quickly put an end to Rincon’s rule-breaking tenure in 1570, replacing him as assayer with Xines Martinez, reflected on the coinage with the initial “X”. Only months later, new guidance from royal authorities mandated a changeover to a completely new design, the now-iconic crowned shield type that would dominate Spanish colonial issues for the next century. As such, the “pillars and waves” issues carrying the assayer mark “X” are among the rarest in the entire Peruvian colonial series. The Rutherford example shows the progression of events with a muddled “R” remaining visible below the newer “X”.

These two fabulous pieces are the most elusive and sought-after from this brief early period for the Lima mint. The S.P. Rutherford Collection extends far beyond these, encompassing most of the major rarities in the colonial series for Lima, Potosi, and Mexico, among other mints. This spectacular arrangement is set to cross the auction block on August 17, 2024. Stay tuned for the release of the full catalog in the coming weeks or visit to browse all the collection’s exciting offerings.

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