A Stunning Rarity from the New World
One of the highlights of the recent Heritage World & Ancient Coin Signature Auction held in New York which concluded yesterday January 6th, was a stunning Royal Cob described below. As Lot 25654 it realized $293,750.00 ( Including the buyers premium). However beyond the price, this coin sheds a little light on the way coins of this period transitioned from hammered to milled coinage and offers up some interesting questions about exactly how and why “Royal Cobs” were made and used during the Spanish Colonial Period.
Here is the Heritage Catalog description of this important coin.
Royal cobs are known to date from 1695 during the reign of Carlos II with the last date known being dated 1729, just prior to the transition to portrait coinage of Felipe V. While there’s no reason not to believe that Royals bearing all dates were struck during this period (and likely before and after), only a handful of dates are accounted for today. The 13 dates include: 1695, 1698, 1702, 1711, 1712, 1713, 1714, 1715, 1717, (1718 – recorded but not seen), 1723, 1728 and 1729. While minor design variances exist, their general composition is the same. The obverse holds a crowned shield at center with mint and assayer initials directly to the left and Roman numeral denomination “VIII” directly to right; the outer legend includes the king’s name and the date. On the reverse, a cross sits in the center with fleur-de-lis in the angles; a quatrelobe surrounds.
Royals minted between 1711 and 1713 share a special distinction among the entire class with a reverse cross that varies from all others – previous dates, and those struck later, have crosses that end with a crossbar. Coins dated in this period however end with crosses, a bold change of unknown reason. These dates also mark a transitional period for cob 8 Escudos of Felipe V. Beginning in 1714, the striking quality changed significantly, with the fields becoming less coarse and the devices being more refined. While the reason for this remains unproven, it is likely that this marked the experimental beginning of milled coinage in Mexico.
Thusly, the Mexican Royal 8 Escudos can be divided into the following types:
- Type 1 [Old Style]: 1695, 1698
- Type 2 [Old Style]: 1702
- Type 2A [Old Style - Crossed End]: 1711, 1712, 1713
- Type 3 [New Style]: 1714, 1715, 1717, (1718), 1723, 1728, 1729
As of the current day, likely no more than 50 examples of these 13 dates are extant with many residing inside institutional collections. 1702 is the most plentiful, with nearly 20% of the survivors bearing this date. Many others dates are unique, or nearly so. The present coin is one of possibly only 2 known for the 1711 date with the other confirmed example being the Calico plate specimen. Both examples were struck from the same dies with a clear die crack on the obverse running through the IP in PHILIPPVS. On the reverse, the formation and placement of the lettering and design is again identical. The other two dates for this sub-type are similarly rare; unique or nearly so.
For the collector of world rarities, a monumental opportunity exists in the current offering, as an example of this date, or the three year sub-type, may go generations without being offered again. This specimen, in all likelihood a fortuitous shipwreck find, is new to the numismatic community. The surfaces are exceptionally well preserved with glowing luster throughout and no marks of any kind to speak of. Although produced via a hammered strike, the detail remains bold, with very trivial doubling seen in a couple of the peripheral letters, but essentially nowhere else. Indeed, it is hard to imagine another example of the “Old Style” type finer! A magnificent piece of unfathomable importance in the field of Spanish and Mexican numismatics and the high watermark of our sale!