Atocha Treasure Coins
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Atocha Coin Design
The coin design in use during the Atocha time period, referred to as shield type, incorporated the Spanish coat of arms or shield on the obverse side and a cross representing the union of Church and State on the reverse. The elements of the design between the three major mints, Mexico City, Lima and Potosi, although similar, have features which make differentiation possible. This is especially true of the Mexican versus Peruvian coins. Shield type cob coinage was first struck at the Mexico City mint in 1572 and ceased production in 1733 when it was replaced by the machine struck pillar dollar. The Lima mint also struck shield type coins in 1572, but only a few coins were minted before operations ceased the same year. The mint reopened for a 12-year period between 1577 to 1588 using the same design. Potosi began striking coins in 1574 using dies from the Lima mint. Shield type production ceased at Potosi in 1652 when it was replaced by the pillar and waves design. Dated coins first appeared at the Mexico City mint in 1607 followed ten years later at the Potosi mint in 1617.
Shield elements on the obverse identify lands controlled by the king. Displayed is the Hapsburg Shield that appears on cobs minted during the reign of the Hapsburg kings beginning with Philip II (1556-1598) and ending with Charles II (1665-1700). The shield design changed with the first Bourbon King, Philip V in 1700. Although not displayed, its primary identification feature is the prominent three Bourbon fleurs-de-lis arrangement located at the center of the shield.
The cross on the reverse clearly identifies coins struck at the Mexico City mint. The Greek cross is found on Lima and Potosi coins. It consists of two intersecting lines in the shape of a large plus sign. The Florenzada cross, a large plus sign flared on the ends and topped with spheres, is found exclusively on Mexico City coins.
Legends are the words placed around the circumference of both sides of the coin. Legends are usually incomplete or often times totally missing, but when full read differently on Mexican cobs versus their Peruvian counterparts. The meaning however, is the same and reads:
Kings name, by the grace of God, King of Spain and of the Indies.
In the actual legend, the letter V is always used in place of the letter U. The King’s name is PHILIPPVS or PHILIPPVS II (1556-1598), PHILIPPVS III (1598-1621), PHILLPPVS IIII (1621-1665), CAROLVS II (1665-1700), PHILIPPVS V (1700-1746) or LVDOVICVS (1724) depending on the time period. King is REX, and is ET, Grace of God is DEI GRATIA or D.G. for short, of Spain is HISPANIARVM and lastly of the Indies is INDIARVM.
Starting clockwise at the 12 o’clock position, the legends read:
OBVERSE SIDE (undated)
Mexico City: NAME OF KING DEI GRATIA
REVERSE SIDE (undated)
Mexico City: HISPANIARVM ET INDIARVM REX
Legends change slightly for dated coins. Mexican coins display the date in the 10 – 11 o’clock position on the obverse side necessitating a compressed legend. The Peruvian coins display the date in the same position but on the reverse where there is ample space for the addition. A new word appears on the Potosi coins, ANO, which means date.
Legend changes are:
OBVERSE SIDE (dated)
Mexico City: NAME OF KING DEI G. DATE
REVERSE SIDE (dated)
Mexico City: unchanged
The assayer mark guaranteed the coins proper weight and purity. It consisted of the chief assayers initial or a monogrammed representation of his name. Records of the assayer names and dates of tenure are important for dating the coin. Unfortunately, many such records do not exist or are still buried in the Spanish archives.
ASSAYER MARKS FOR SHIELD TYPE COINS
MEXICO CITY - MINTMARK = M (small o over the M)
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