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





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 The War of Spanish Succession

and the Lima Coinage of 1701


Europe went to war in 1701 to prevent the French Bourbon Philip V from claiming the Spanish throne willed to him by the childless Carlos II. Britain and Holland, fearing a united Spain and France, demanded the the throne go to a Austrian Hapsburg, Archduke Charles. Many Spaniards also did not want a French Bourbon on the throne and join the British-Dutch Alliance to support Charles. A decade of often bloody conflict followed, in which Philip eventually prevailed. At the beginning of the war Philip V was rightly worried about the loyalties of some of his New World viceroys and governors, especially as the Alliance backing Charles scored early victories. Philip waited anxiously to see what loyalties Mexico, Peru, and Colombia would signal with their coinage in 1701-02. Throughout 1701 Mexico and Bogota continued to strike their coinage neutrally in the name of the posthumous monarch Carlos II. But late in 1701 Philip got good news from Lima.


L74. LIMA 1701/0 H  eight escudos,  showing the name of Philip V.

The rarest Lima onza! Lustrous, boldly struck in high relief, well centered, and near mint state. One of three collectible specimens and the only Lima onza from 1701 showing the name of the disputed Bourbon heir, Philip V. Unique and unlisted in Calico, Cayon, Chavez, etc. A 1715 Fleet onza reported found on the Cabin Wreck, with the dark ocean matrix that supports that attribution. NGC AU 55. [SOLD]



      Many people assume that the 1696 Lima 8 escudos is the rarest Lima 8 escudos because it has the lowest mintage. The 1696 was the lowest mintage onza struck at Lima (no onza were struck in 1706), but the current census records 5 collectible and 2 institutional survivors, including two specimens at auction in 2008. The census for 1701 Lima 8 escudos has stood at 3 collectible and one institutional specimens for many years. Only one 1701 (this coin) has come to auction in the last 50 years by our records. Also, no 1696 seems to have a documented Fleet provenance, while all the known 1701's have appeared after the Fleet salvages beginning in the mid-1960's.

     Why so few 1701's have survived involves some tragic history of the period. The unfortunate Carlos II died in November 1700 and a Pan-European war of succession immediately broke when the French Bourbons tried to claim the Spanish throne in the name of Philip V.  The English and Dutch declared war in time to ambush the rich 1702 Plate Fleet, which had just made it to Vigo Bay in NW Spain before disaster struck. The entire Spanish Treasure Fleet was captured or sunk by the English.  Tons of silver and gold were taken back to London, where the Master of Mint, Isaac Newton, oversaw its striking into the famous English Vigo coinage.  Some of the royal silver had been offloaded by the Spanish just before the English struck, but most of the gold, as on the 1715 Fleet, was privately held and had no priority offload. It went done with the Spanish galleons or was seized and hauled off to London to be recoined as te Vigo victory coinage. No salvage of the 1702 Fleet was possible, although several years ago the Spanish government reported that they had located the wrecksite of the principal galleon, Santo Cristo de Maracaibo. No commercial salvage of the wreck will be allowed. Odyssey International need not apply!

    After the disaster of 1702, with predatory English & Dutch fleets roaming the seas, no major Treasure Fleet was attempted again until 1708. Disaster struck again! The galleon San Jose with huge amounts of El Peru gold & silver was caught by the British and sunk in deep water north of Colombia.  None of her treasure was ever recovered. The Colombian government believe they have located the site of the San Jose, and have issued menacing warning to salvors that this "national treasure" will never be available for commercial salvage (I have this warning directly from a Colombian admiral!)

     Unlike the 1715 Fleet which lost its treasures in the shallow waters of Florida and permitted salvage in the friendly era of the 1960-70's, the treasures of the 1702 and 1708 Fleets will likely never be available to private collectors if they are salvaged.



This 1701/0 Lima 8 escudos is the sole surviving gold coin struck in El Peru in name of Philip V in 1701, and a great surprise as such. The other two collectible 1701's and the Florida State coin (#1673) are all in the name of the deceased Carlos II. A surprise to find Philip V on a Lima 1701 because the viceroy in 1701 was one Melchor Portocarrero, a man whom some expected to be a Hapsburg loyalist and supporter of the Hapsburg heir, CHarles III.  Melchor Portocarrero's career had been made in Mexico and Peru with offices awarded by Carlos II, and  in the first years of the War of Succession the Hapsburg-English-Dutch Alliance was clearly winning. So why did Portocarrero in 1701 declare his allegiance for the Bourbon candidate Philip V? A dangerous move! The Colombians at this time experimented with a 1701-02 coinage in the name of both Philip and Carlos, until they decided the safest bet was to revert to posthumous Carlos II coinage that lasted until the War of Succession ended in 1713. But El Peru's Melchor Portocarrero was clearly a Bourbon man from the beginning.  Some on-going archival work, it is hoped, will explain Melchor Portocarrero's loyalties. This 1701 Lima onza is a key piece of the evidence that the Bourbons were in control in Lima in 1701 and not afraid to proclaim at least in El Peru.


Our 1701/0 is from the same pillar side die as Calico La Onza #115, plainly also a Fleet coin, which Calico describes as "1701 sobre 1700." The die cutters did a fairly thoroughly polishing out the underdigit 0, but in doing so left a large circular depression in the shape of the original small high 0 of 1700. Calico #115, however, has a Carlos II cross die. Calico #115, one other (unpublished) 1701 Carlos, and our 1701/0 Philip constitute the entire surviving population of the 1701 Lima onzas. But for the fact that these few onzas turned up on the wrecks of the 1715 Fleet we would nothing of the 1701 mintage


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