From the Los Mimbres Shipwreck
Los Mimbres Ingot M56
weight : 3.66 lbs (1990 gms)
dimensions: 9 x 2.65 x 0.65 inches
overseer/assayer sigla: none
Ley/ fineness: IV IIII XX = 1420/2400
style of ley: Roman Square with Z seals above & below
second assay: no original assay. This assay is from the Rodrigo's
investigation of 1525 (see below)
quinto/ tax stamp: one, possibly counterfeit ,to the left of the assay
place and date of production: Tarascan Michoacan, Mexico, 1523-24
By 1525 the assays on Tarascan bars cast in the two previous years began to be questioned. No doubt Cortes’ Mexico City silversmiths reported discrepancies. The Council of New Spain ordered an immediate investigation, whose conclusion was reported to Charles I in a letter late that year by the royal inspector Rodrigo de Albornoz. Rodrigo’s report led to the order of April 1526, recalling all Tarascan and unrefined bars in Mexico.
A key part of Rodrigo’s investigation in 1525 was the re-assayed of a sizeable sample of the bars from Michoacan. More than 20 bars and discs in the Los Mimbres Treasure show re-assays of ingots originally cast under the supervision of Bvo and BoRA and MS and other veedors. It is now clear that Rodrigo’s investigator(s) used a Roman Square style of stamp to distinctively mark their re-assay. All of these Roman Square stampings record a more accurate assay than the original, sometimes substantially more accurate, confirming the worries about the original Tarascan assays. One re-assay even corrects an early attempt (M97) at producing a refined bar. Rodrigo’s re-assay did not add a monogram naming the new assayer since the monograms (like Bvo) on the bars identified the veedor originally responsible for producing the bars. A small seal above and below the fineness protected it from alteration and officially identified the re-assay. The seal looks like a reversed Z or possibly S. This could be the make of Rodrigo de Albornoz himself, but we are not sure.
A few Tarascan bars with the Roman Square style of assay show no previous assay. M56 is one of these. These were undoubtedly the “privately” produced bars Rodrigo reports his investigators turned up. “Privately” did not necessarily imply “illegally” in the context of 1523-24 when Mexico had no official foundries. So long as the quinto was paid a bar was legal. But the quinto was based on the assayed value, not the gross weight. So if there was no assay, how could the quinto be paid? Legitimate bars needed to show some sort of assay. Unassayed bars like M56 also tended to be smaller than normal, of the “pocket” size favored by smugglers. Rodrigo’s investigators were empowered to assay but not to seize any Tararscan bar they came across. Thus M56 survived the investigation of 1525, but a major target of the recall of 1526 was to force “private” issue like M56 out of circulation and into an official foundry where the quinto would be collected.
References: Armstrong p. 49, Garcia-Barneche p. 126
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