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Gold Cobs from the Florida shipwrecks of the 1715 Fleet & other New World wrecks. Spanish Colonial gold cobs from Lima, Mexico, Cuzco, Bogotá, and Cartagena.

 

 

 

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  Philip IV (1621-1665)

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Cobs from the Colombian mint at Cartagena (1622,1626-35)

(revised Jan. 2016)

 

It is now clear that a mint, technically an oficina, began to operate in Cartagena in 1621 under the treasurer Capt. Alonso Turillo. Turillo brought with him to Cartagena dies prepared in Spain for a silver and gold coinage. A very few silver coins, but apparently no gold coins, were struck in 1621 in Cartagena. In 1622, after relocating to Santa Fe, a few two escudos (the SF coinage) were struck. Turillo returned to Spain in July of 1622, and the Cartagena mint was inactive until his return in 1625. Silver coinage began in October of 1626 and a very small gold coinage is recorded in late December. No 1625 two escudos are known and a single 1626/2 NRE represents the 1626 coinage (pictured & discussed below). Two escudos and apparently a very few one escudos were produced annually for nine years, 1627-35.  Political pressure from officials at Santa Fe succeeded in closing the rival mint at Cartagena for much of 1629-30 and then permanently in 1635. Cartagena reopened without permission in the Fall of 1655 to help with the great silver recoinage of that period, but Cartagena never struck gold after 1635.

 

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C12. Cartagena, 1633 C E/inverted E , two escudos.

Unique variety  unlisted in any reference work (Lasser, Restropo). Well struck, lustrous, choice surfaces. Large planchet with most of PHILLIPUS visible (very rare on any Cartagena two escudos).

6.7 gms. NGC XF 45, but AU in terms of wear.

 

      This is a new and puzzling variety of the already rare dated 1633 issue. Lasser and Restropo record the inverted assayer E variety, but this is something different. For some reason, the Cartagena mint decided that they needed to re-issue a "corrected" version of the inverted E die. First they repunched the assayer mark E in the correct orientation over the inverted E, creating something that looks like an H closed at the top and bottom. Then they replaced (repunched) the dots above and below the E with large crosses or stars. The crosses are exceptional and puzzling: this kind of reworking of a die already in service never happened before or after at a Colombian mint--and certainly not for "decorative" purposes. No other Cartagena die has crosses flanking the shield.

 

 

 

It seems likely that the Cartagena mint wanted to clearly distinguish this gold issue from the previous C with-inverted E issue. Repunching the E was not conspicuous enough, so they added the crosses or stars. In the absence (so far) of a definitive answer from archival sources, we are left to speculate on the reason for this issue.  Perhaps the with-crosses issue is using gold from a different source? In any case, something unusual was going on in Cartagena in 1633. Spanish Colonial mints did not capriciously pull dies from service and re-engrave them. Recall an exception that proves the rule: commemorative with-stars Lima issue of 1746.

 

 

My friend Joe Lasser and Jorge Restropo did an admirable job in their monograph on Colombian gold cobs, but it is now clear that the Cartagena story is somewhat more complicated than the chronology they published in 2000 and 2006.  The 1626 issues remain dubious, NRE issues continued into the 1630's, and some special issues like this 1633 with stars/crosses make the story even more interesting. A careful study of the Cartagena mint is overdue.

 

 

Available. Price on request.

 

terravitan@aol.com or 480-595-1293

 

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C8. Cartagena 1628 RNE, two escudos [SOLD]

                

     All dated Cartagenas are rare, but  four digit 1628's are very rare.

     Exactly three are known. Joe Lasser did a buy-at-any-price search for

     these rare early Cartagenas for 20 years and could find only two coins.

    This 1628 was impounded in the fabulous Caballeros Collection for

    over 35 years and not available to Joe.     

     

 

  

Overdates were not a rare phenomenon on Cartagena coins, though the references books do not yet recognize this. 1631/0's exist in some numbers. 162x/2 exists (see the research coin below). Very possibly, this coin is a 1628/7, though the late die state make this impossible to ascertain with certainty. The irregular shape of the 8 looks like a crude effort to re-engrave a 7 as 8. Serviceable 1627 dies would certainly have been re-engraved for continued use at the frugal Cartagena mint.

 

Three full date are known, a reasonable consequence of a low mintage and poor survival. My 30 year search for others suggest no others exist. Dated RNE Cartagena two escudos are without doubt the rarest Spanish Colonial series.

This s 1628 Cartagena two escudos was lot 114 in the fabulous Caballero de las Yndies (noted by NGC on the insert).

 

SOLD.

 

terravitan@aol.com or 480-595-1293

 

 

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C13. Cartagena, two escudos, 1635 C E.  Rare in mint state.

          A lustrous, mint state, very well struck Cartagena two escudos from

          the last year of gold production at Cartagena.

         

 


Mint state Cartagenas are quite rare, perhaps because nothing comparable to the 1715 Fleet disaster befell Spanish treasure Fleets in the 1630's or 1640's. Mint state specimens allow to study some fine details lost in the typical XF coin. In the shield notice the very distinctive fleurs of New Burgundy to the right and the miniature (4 mm) but well formed castles to the upper left. In the angles of the cross on the other side, notice the enlarged & stylized fleurs that look like oversized willows. From 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock above the cross we can read the bottom of the letters and digits REX 1635.

 

 

     A book is forthcoming by Jorge Proctor detailing the relentless efforts of the audencia of Santa Fe de Bogota to get the mint at Cartagena closed. Philip IV was finally persuaded to do so in 1635, based in part on false accusations. After only 10 years of often low mintage gold issues Cartagena's gold mint closed forever, and its victorious rival Bogota set about melting every piece of Cartagena gold it laid eyes on. The rarity of Cartagena gold was guaranteed.

    I should also tell you that this 1635 Cartagena comes to me imprisoned in a PCGS slab from which it really ought to liberated. PCGS did not see the date and graded the mint state coin AU 58. A 1635 Cartagena in this condition with a full bold date would certainly bring $5500-6000 at auction and perhaps much. I am pleased to be able to offer this mint state 1635 Cartagena two escudos for $3250.

 

 

 

Sold.

 

 terravitan@aol.com or 480-595-1293

 

 

 

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Two views of the harbor at Cartagena:

on the left, Boazio map of 1589, looking south;

on the right, a contemporary photo looking north.

It is a beautiful city, well worth a visit.

 

 

 

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Research Topic: Did the Cartagena mint issue two escudos in 1625-26?

 

We have several dated reales that testify to a output of a Cartagena silver coinage in 1626. One dated 1626 eight reales is pictured on page 80 (M45-1) of Restropo's Coins of Colombia, 4th ed.  That coin, incidentally, is now known to be a 1626/5/1 H issue! Restropo's opinion has been that 1626 two escudos may exist though none are confirmed ("No se conocen piezas de 1626 pero son possibles"). Recently his views have changed.

 

In Ponterio's NYINC '09 sale, lot 581, this apparently unique specimen surfaced.

 

 

The obverse of this Cartagena two escudos matches the design assayer E is believed to have used in 1627. NRE to the right of the shield, denomination to the left. See Restropo's M52-3 on page 86 of Coins of Colombia. Records tells us that assayer E (Juan de la Era) came to the Cartagena mint with Turrillo in 1625. (Obverse and reverse show significant sea corrosion, but the coin is still slightly over 6.7 gm.)

 

 

What is different and apparently unique about this two escudos is the reverse. It is not in a style that assayer E used in 1627-35, but in the same style found on the gold SF coinage of 1622, believed to have been struck briefly in Santa Fe in that year. It does not match any reverse used with known 1622 specimens, but it is the same design. The date on this two escudos is 162X, with the last digit covered or obscured with a large blob of material.  What can be seen, low at the left of the blob, is the sharp point of a second 2. So this coin is an overdate with the overtype mostly illegible: 162X/2. A conjecture that strongly suggests itself is that this is an unused or still serviceable reverse die from the 1622 coinage pressed back into service with a re-engraved date when the gold coinage resumed in 1625-26. Most people including Restrepo now believe that this is a 1626/2 overdate, possibly even a 1626/5/2 overdate. This may be correct but another example of this issue is sorely wanted to confirm the 1626/2 overdate.

 

Anyone who owns a second example of this 162X/2, need I say, would discover that I am very eager to examine the coin.

 

terravitan@aol.com or 480-595-1293

 

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