Pasto – “Constitutional” Coins Of A Spanish Royalist Emergency Mint

Lot 23172 in Stack’s Bowers Ponterio’s November 2011 auction sale is a small silver coin of seeming crudity, which on careful examination proves to be an important relic of a stirring era, the struggles in Spain itself and in South America for independence. The coin is a silver 2 Reales dated 1822 with mintmark “P,” which was intended to identify Popayan in what is now Colombia, then part of the Spanish Province of the New Kingdom of Granada. A mailed laureate bust of King Charles IV dominates the obverse, but with a legend identifying his son, FERDND. 7. D. G. ET. CONST., Ferdinand VII by the Grace Of God and the Constitution. The use of a deceased monarch’s bust before new portrait punches arrived from Spain was a regular occurrence in Latin American mints, but this design combined use of the short-lived Constitutional title with the obsolete portrait.
Spanish Liberals upholding Ferdinand VII during his Napoleonic captivity and occupation of his throne by Napoleon’s brother Jose had promulgated a Constitution at Cadiz in 1812, establishing a liberal monarchy. This move was violently opposed by the King himself and Spanish traditionalists and led to protracted civil wars. The Pasto 2 Reales would be the only coinage of any Latin American mint to use the Constitutional titles after Ferdinand “el deseado, the Desired,” was restored to his throne.
By 1822 most of the Spanish colonies from Mexico to Argentina were in revolt against Ferdinand. In what soon became known as Colombia, Simon Bolivar’s armies were advancing on the mint city of Popayan, and the Royalists tried to remove valuable coining machinery to Quito in what is now Ecuador, still under Royal control. The massive presses used for coinage of the crown-sized 8 Reales had to be abandoned. Presses for quarter-sized 2 Reales were taken and set up at the small city of Pasto, thus becoming the first coins struck in Ecuador. Strikes were hurried and distinctly crude, resulting in very uneven legends on both sides of this coin. The date on this Very Fine specimen is very lightly impressed but the portrait is unusually full. The coin records the roles and battles of Bolivar’s pro-independence forces, the resisting Spanish Royalists, and has the added echo of the constitutionalist versus absolutist struggles that convulsed the homeland, making it a coin of many attractions.

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