1776 Spanish Colony 8 Reales - Which One Used by US Colonists?

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by iPen, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. iPen

    iPen Well-Known Member

    Does anyone know "for sure" which mint's 8 Reales from 1776 were used by the US colonists?

    I know that the Mexico City mint (Mo) one is popular due to the relatively closer proximity to the US. But what about the other mints? Did the ships carrying those silver coins leave directly from the minted country's ports to Spain? Or, did the ships make a pit stop in the Caribbeans or the Spanish-owned Florida, where freshly minted coins may have circulated into the US? There must have been a constant demand by US colonists for the Spanish colony-made silver coins due to their reliable silver content.

    Thanks in advance!
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  3. Numismat

    Numismat World coin enthusiast Supporter

    At that point and time, anything that was good silver made anywhere by anyone was used. Obviously the Mexico City mint pieces would be more common, but all types would have been in circulation. I don't think merchants paid much attention to the mintmarks for Spanish colonial silver. Weight and whether or not it was solid were the only concerns.
    Also, not sure what you mean by the ships leaving to Spain. There are peninsular and colonial types. The two were meant to stay separate.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
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  4. iPen

    iPen Well-Known Member

    I read somewhere that most Spanish colonial silver was shipped directly to Spain.
  5. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    As stated above what the American Colonists were concerned about was the weight and purity of their coinage, no matter where it was minted. It was common for colonial merchants dealing with a coin-paying public (like taverns) to have touchstones and scales to determine value. After independence and the adoption of the US Constitution the federal government published abstracts from time to time, right up to the mid 19th Century, which established just what foreign coinage was legal tender within the US and what its value was in US equivalents. The US Government did not seem to be concerned about which mints Spanish coins came from in determining their worth, with one exception. The coinage of the Spanish mints on the Iberian Peninsula used a somewhat different design and their weights and fineness showed variation compared to that of their colonial mints, for example what were called pistareens. Because of this variation, such pistareen Spanish coins were NOT legal tender in the US though they did circulate here and from time to time adds in newspapers would offer to buy and sell them in quantity. Close in size to colonial mint coins, like the pistareen, some of the Spanish Iberian mint coins like the two bit (reales) pieces had values of 18 to 20 cents (a short two bits). The only thing the US mints began to worry about by the Jacksonian period (ca. 1825-1840) was the light weight of all worn Spanish pieces compared to what the weight of the eight reales and US dollar were supposed to be. It is interesting that when all foreign coins ceased to be legal tender in 1857, Spanish coins from Latin American mints were still to be honored at US post offices which accepted them for decades but at the short bit rate of ten cents (not 12 and a half cents) a bit. It's probably impossible to answer the OP's original question as to which mint issued the most coins that wound up in Colonial America. While Mexico City coins might be more available on the American market today, that may be an indication of some other factor than their ubiquity in Colonial America.
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  6. harley bissell

    harley bissell Well-Known Member

    As already stated similar coins passed as currency throughout 1855 being banned shortly after. To answer how the coins got here there were two primary methods. INDIVIDUALLY - One group would be the traders and the smugglers. Santa Fe traders brought back millions of pesos wrapped in buffalo hides that they used as packs. Throughout the Spanish colonies heavy tariffs were placed on all manufactured goods and you were supposed to buy them from Spain. The United States was closer and much cheaper if the goods were smuggled and no taxes and tariffs were levied. GOVERNMENTALLY OR LEGALLY SANCTIONED. Licensed merchants working for themselves or the government came to the United States and bought horses, cattle, mules and other livestock and paid in gold and silver coins. Those large cattle ranches in Florida grew to supply that trade and the buyers kept coming throughout the 1800s until the early 1920s.
    Randy Abercrombie likes this.

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    And it was, in huge quantities, up until 1600 anyway. After that the quantities dropped off significantly and continued dropping until it finally stopped. Shortly after 1600 a lot, if not most of the colonial silver was being shipped across the Pacific directly to Asia. But much smaller quantities still went to Europe.

    As for the Spanish colonial coinage that was used in the American colonies, the coins of the Mexico and Potosi mints were by far the most common. And it got there in several different ways as mentioned by others above.
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  8. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    This is a question custom made for @BlackBeard_Thatch .... He is a walking history lesson on these pieces. I found the cobb in my avatar in a secluded bay on the southern Carolina coast in 1989. I had always rather hoped it was a piece used by an early colonist. @BlackBeard_Thatch educated me that we had established Spanish colonies on our coast and there are confirmed Spanish shipwrecks there. I would venture to say that the bulk of what was minted did sail directly to Spain yet some were diverted to their coastal settlements on the US coast as they certainly needed them for commerce here as well. That's just an off the cuff guess on my part though.

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    Although many Spanish colonial pieces were used here, I am not aware of any that were shipped here, by Spain, for the purpose of being used here. Royal decree was that they ALL be shipped to Spain in the beginning. But as I noted above that changed after 1600. The Spanish colonial silver that was used here, got here by other means. It was not even supposed to circulate in the colonies where it was minted, although some undoubtedly did due to necessity at various times. The Spanish colonists themselves were supposed to use the regular Spanish coinage which was shipped from Spain to the colonies for use in local commerce.
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  10. BlackBeard_Thatch

    BlackBeard_Thatch Captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge

    All coinage that would of been used by colonists would of came from South America mints. Ships leaving for Spain would of stopped in Cuba which was a Spanish territory but Louisiana was also a Spanish colony which would of been a trade point for the 13 colonies so currency would of switched hands. The main mints that you would of seen are Mexico(common), Potosi(uncommon), Bogotá(rare), Guatemala(rare), Peru(uncommon). You will see mostly Mexico because they were still pulling out a lot of silver out of the mines and producing coinage like nobody's business.

    @Randy Abercrombie Thanks for the little shoutout :cigar:
  11. Numismat

    Numismat World coin enthusiast Supporter

    Would 8 reales minted in the Spanish colonies as late as 1776 have been shipped back to Spain though? I was under the impression that the colonial portrait types, and maybe the previous columnarios as well, were meant to only circulate in the colonies while the peninsular types were meant to stay in Spain.
  12. BlackBeard_Thatch

    BlackBeard_Thatch Captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge

    I assume yes since there was no single Spanish mint open at that period anywhere in Europe, only in South America. You have to realize that Spain's empire was crumbling and it was noticeable at this point, in 24 years (1800) Spain's power demise was in progress. Here is a nice accurate video showing Spain's territories/colonies.

  13. Numismat

    Numismat World coin enthusiast Supporter

    What about the mints at Madrid and Seville? They were both producing coins of the portrait type continuously throughout the 1770's and up until it was retired in the 1830's.
  14. BlackBeard_Thatch

    BlackBeard_Thatch Captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge

    Yes they were but not to the rate of the new world mints and these coins would of only been used in Spain itself, very rare to have found one in the new world and would of have been brought over by merchants from Spain. When money shortages happen in Spain's colonies the king would order shipments of currency from new world mints to Spanish colonies because it was cheaper and more reliable due to Spain having problems with the British at this point in history(Britian loved to burn ships :dead:). You have to realize that Spain was in a giant power struggle and they made fatal errors for example War of Jenkins' Ear, The Seven Years War. The Spanish were in no power at this point to continue shipments as they did in 1600/1500s.
  15. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter** Supporter

    This is a very interesting topic. As a collector of Santiago, Chile Colonial and Early Republican coins I have often wondered why these coins are so scarce today. Where did they go? The local population could not have used much of it - it was a very sparsely populated country. My assumption is that most was used to pay for trade and ended up in the United States (California?) and Europe, with some going to the Orient as well. There, it was melted and/or lost.
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  16. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    I don't think there are a lot of folks who truly understand what happened, and why, in Europe, once Spain had discovered and established its colonies in the New World. Nor do they understand the particulars of the Spanish colonial coinage. In the beginning the King ordered that all the silver and gold found be minted into coins and shipped back to Spain. But he did not do this so that the coins could be used in commerce, to the contrary, the colonial coinage was forbidden to even circulate in Spain. He did it as a bookkeeping measure, it was far easier to keep track of things, to count actual coins, than it was to keep track of bars. Spanish colonial coins were nothing more than bullion. And minting coins made it much harder for his people in the colonies to cheat. And once all the colonial coins got to Spain they were melted down and minted into regular Spanish coinage. Also realize that almost all of the early colonial coinage was cobs, things that could not, would not even be recognized as being coins anywhere else. Their only requirement was the weight, fineness, and the Royal seal being recognizable. But keep in mind the time period, I'm still talking about the beginning here - up until 1600. The very first Spanish colonial coin was not even minted until 1536. And for the first decade or so they were very few in number. Point being, that only leaves us with about 50 years worth of large numbers being minted.

    Ya see, 1600 was a pivotal point. Prior to that the Spanish were able to use all that silver in trade in Europe itself, not as coins, as bullion, small pieces of silver bullion. But it soon got to the point that there was so much Spanish silver coming into Europe that there was quite literally too much of it. Nobody even knew what to do with it all. At or around 1600 the other European countries even refused to take silver in trade from Spain. They insisted that all payments for trade goods be made with gold. Their economies could not stand any more silver, there was so much of it that it was becoming worthless. The Spanish didn't even know what to do with all their silver. They were melting and minting all they could, and they still had hundreds of tons of silver left over - that nobody would take.

    At this point they had to do something so that's when the King ordered that colonial silver be shipped from the colonies directly to Asia. A lot went to the ports in the Philippines, some to India, some to China. And yes it was all still colonial coins, but they were not treated as coins in Asia, they were treated as small chunks of silver bullion to be melted down and used as local coins or something else. This was the only way that the Spanish could get rid of their silver.

    But 1600 was also pivotal for another reason, the flow of silver was slowing down. It was no where near what it used to be. The following is a single paragraph taken from a study on the the subject. It explains a lot, especially regarding the quantities in relation to the time period.

    Imports of American treasure followed a roughly similar pattern. They averaged approximately 7,000,000 pesos per year in the 1590s, then dropped to between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 annually between 1600 and 1625. From that point they fell rapidly, dropping to little more than 2,000,000 annually between 1646 and 1650 and only 500,000 in the years 1656-1660. The crown's share of the American treasure began to fall both earlier and more rapidly. Royal treasure receipts of American bullion averaged somewhat more than 1,500,000 pesos from 1595 to 1615, dropped to less than 1,000,000 annually [297] from 1616 to 1645, dwindled to less than 400,000 during the ten years after that, and averaged little more than 100,000 annually between 1656 and 1660.

    What it says there is self explanatory, and it continued to drop after that. By around 1640 the value of the goods going from Spain to the New World exceeded the value of silver, gold, and goods coming from the New World.

    Perhaps the greater point being made here is that after this time the number of Spanish colonial coins was quite low. There simply was not a lot of them even being minted anymore. The ones were all most familiar with, Pillar dollars and Portrait dollars, they existed in the lowest numbers of all. And Pillar dollars began being minted in 1732, with Portraits appearing 1773 I think it was. And even the vast majority of them were still treated as being nothing more than small chunks of bullion and melted down.

    But by the 1700's the colonies were growing, population was increasing. But not that big. In 1710 the population of New York, one of the largest if not the largest, was only 6,000 people. And 6,000 people can only use so many coins. But, as it turns out, there was a perpetual coin shortage in the colonies - none of them ever had enough coins. And not just the American colonies, this was also true of the Mexican and South American colonies. And what this tells us is that the number of Spanish colonial coins in actual circulation anywhere was very, very, low indeed.

    And that is why so few of these coins from most of the colonial mints exist today at all (with the exception of Mexico and Potosi). In some cases one or two of these mints were not even known to exist for sure until recent years. One case in point is the mint in Panama.
  17. Bardolph

    Bardolph New Member

    I would just like to make a few remarks on some of the preceding posts.

    On the question of the colonial and peninsular mints, I have in front of me the annual production figures of the Madrid mint from its founding in 1614 up until the present day. As you can see, the production of gold coinage in the 17th was rather small, so there was no need for the colonial mints to engage in large volume production – there was plenty of capacity, not only in Madrid but also in Seville and the other peninsular mints.

    MADRID Production of gold coinage by weight
    17th Century: total kilos for the century = 6262 kgs. Best Year: 1676, 418 kgs

    18th Century total Kilos 1,204,327; Best year 1789, 10,383 kgs

    Far from slowing down, in the second half of the 17th Century the production of gold and silver increased dramatically. With so much bullion around, the Madrid mint gave up copper coinage for good in 1730 and it became obvious that the colonial mints would have to ease the strain on the home mints by shipping coinage instead of raw silver and gold... When Nuestra Senora de Atocha sank off the Florida coast in 1622 it carried 24 tonnes of silver in ingots and a small amount of coinage. When the frigate Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes was sunk by the British in 1804 off the coast of Spain, she carried 17 tonnes of treasure - 580,000 silver coins, mainly 8 and 4 and only 212 gold coins. 91% of the coins were from the Lima mint, followed by 8% from Potosi and very small amounts from Popayan, Mexico and Santiago de Chile. I can find no reference to gold or silver ingots. And of course these colonially produced coins circulated freely throughout Spain and the rest of the world. Spanish 8 reales were legal tender in Canada right up to the middle of the 19th Century.

    The comment made earlier that the coinage of S. American mints was not allowed to circulate in Spain is totally incorrect, this was never the case. In the early stages of the Spanish overseas possessions, the reasons for establishing a mint was less for producing coins and more for demonstrating Spanish sovereignty over the conquered territories. Spanish coins,wherever they were produced, circulated freely, obvously so- what was Spain to do in when the colonial mints sent coin to the motherland? Moreover Spanish gold and silver was the international currency for over 200 years, so that it is be no surprise to find Spanish coins turning up all over the world.

    As I have pointed out ,in the initial stages of the colonial mints, their most important role wasa political one . For this reason, in the 15th and part of the 16th centuries silver and gold were shipped to Spain as bullion, in ingots. Small amounts of coinage were produced for local usage, but there was certainly no ban on its use elsewhere. What may have give rise to this confusion is that settlement of international trade, when not paid for in gold, was paid only in 4 and 8 reales. In 1707, the Pragmatica of Felipe V introduced the notion of Moneda Nacional (4 and 8reales with a silver content 0f 0.9166) and Moneda Provincial, for internal use within Spain (1/2, 1 and 2 reales) with a silver content of 0.8333).

    Finally, why are there so few coins to be found? Because at regular intervals (e.g. 1660-64, 1728, 1772, 1786, 1808 etc) the Spanish crown collected as much old silver as possible to melt it down and reissue, either to show the face of the new king, or to take out of circulation badly damaged -underweight coins – and reissue new coins with a lower silver content. Once the former Spanish possession achieved independence, they also melted down Spanish coins and replaced them with their own coinage. The last mints to produce Spanish coins closed in the
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