One of the landmark
rarities of all of Latin America and one of the most noteworthy large gold type
coins struck worldwide over the last two centuries will cross the block as part
of the Eldorado Collection in our official auction of the New York International
Numismatic Convention, January 11-14, 2018 in New York City.
This unique piece is
graded EF-45 by PCGS. Abundant luster survives across both sides, especially
bold at the peripheries. Both obverse and reverse are richly toned in deep
orange gold, flashing in areas with luster. The fields are peppered with tiny
marks, none individually severe. The shallow abrasion that appears behind the
portrait on the Hammel plate is not as severe in hand. A shallow lamination is
noted after the final A of REPUBLICA on the reverse. The centers are not fully
struck up on either side, owing to the excessive relief of the Bolívar
portrait. The portrait is similar to that found on the “ugly head” 4
Reales of this year, suggesting they were accomplished by the same hand, though
significant variations are apparent.
There is no rarer type coin among the onza series, incorporating all the 8
Escudos of the former Spanish dominions, than this one. This design was coined
for only one year, 1844, combining this awkward right-facing depiction of Simon
Bolívar with a reverse that was modified for use on the Ecuadorian 8 Escudos of
1845. The national insignias are incorporated into a rectangular shield,
flanked with two flags on either side. The internal details of the shield show
significant variance from the reverse of 1845, but the difference between the
condors is even more evident. While the bird looks like a condor in 1845, it
more closely resembles a skinny eagle here.
The Bolívar portrait is what has made this rarity so famous. The head is crude,
lacking in detail and topped with a mop of combed hair. The bust truncation is
rounded at the shoulders and straight at base, where BOLIVAR identifies the
person whose visage is intended. It is crude but charming, while being
This coin has every appearance of being unique. Another specimen was said to
have existed in the famed Enrique Maulme Collection, authenticated by Henry
Christensen and referenced in his 1981 Maulme catalog, which noted that coin
and four others had “been kept in Ecuador as part of the National
Patrimony.” After being deposited in the Banco del Ecuador, the coin was
apparently stolen and is currently untraced. This is the most famous specimen,
with provenance to the 1921 Lord Grantley sale, held in Amsterdam by J.
Schulman. It appears on an inventory of the Waldo Newcomer Collection, built in
Baltimore in the 1920s before being sold in 1931. The piece apparently stayed
in the United States, as it was next seen in the 1982 Mortimer Hammel sale,
where the piece was purchased for a record $32,000 at the nadir of the coin
market. It has remained in this collection from that day to this one.
No collection of 8 Escudos is complete without this coin. No collection of
Ecuador, by date or type, is complete without it. No specimen of this coin
resides in any institutional collection, nor in any other private one. For many
seasoned numismatists, both amateur and professional, this will be their first
time even seeing this coin. An entire generation of numismatists came and went
before 1982 without ever knowing with certainty that this coin even existed.
We acknowledge with thanks the generous assistance of Carlos Jara with
determining the historical details of this lot.