Bolivian melgarejo from 1865

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by Parthicus, Jun 12, 2024.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Bolivia 1865 melgarejo.jpg
    Bolivia. Potosi mint. Melgarejo (equivalent to 1 peso or 8 soles). 1865. Obverse: Bust of Melgarejo left in military uniform, Spanish text around "Al pacificador de Bolivia F.P." (To the peacemaker of Bolivia F.P.[mintmaster's initials?]. Reverse: Spanish text around edge and in center "Gratitud del pueblo Potosino en 1865 al valor del Jeneral Melgarejo" (Gratitude of the people of Potosi in 1865 to the valor of General Melgarejo" and marks of fineness and weight "666 Ms 400 Gs" (666 thousandths (fine silver), 400 grains). KM#146. This coin: Frank S. Robinson "Holey Coins" auction, lot 61 (June 5, 2024).

    Manuel Mariano Melgarejo Valencia (1820-1871) was President of Bolivia from 1864 to 1871 and, while not fondly remembered, was certainly a colorful character. Born to a humble background, he joined the army at the age of 16 as a private and worked his way up the ranks. In 1854 he led a failed revolt against then-President Belzu and was sentenced to death, but was pardoned after many citizens made pleas for his life. Melgarejo was then stationed to distant frontier postings for the next few years, out of (well-founded) fears that his rebellious streak was not done. He supported Acha in his 1862 overthrow of the previous government (I'm skipping over a couple of intervening administrations- Bolivian politics at the time was highly unsettled), and in 1862 was rewarded with the title of Army General, in charge of the entire Bolivian Army. However, in 1864, Melgarejo had an affair with Acha's wife, weakening Acha politically and leading to his health failing. In December 1864, Melgarejo staged a coup and declared himself President of Bolivia. He quickly faced opposition from various fronts, including a former president, Belzu, who returned from European exile and was able to capture the capital of La Paz. However, when Melgarejo entered the government palace to discuss surrender terms, he simply murdered Belzu. Allegedly, a crowd had gathered outside and was cheering Belzu's name. However, Melgarejo appeared on a balcony and shouted "Belzu is dead! Who lives now?" The crowd, adjusting quickly to the new political reality, shouted back "Long live Melgarejo!"

    Melgarejo's administration was a mixture of harshness and incompetence. He confiscated communal tracts of land from indigenous communities, had the inhabitants evicted, and distributed the lands to his supporters. He made treaties with Chile and Brazil that were highly unfavorable to Bolivia, giving away large areas of territory. Melgarejo soon took a new mistress, Juana Sanchez, who had appeared before him to plead for the life of her brother Aurelio. The Sanchez family was given considerable influence in the government, despite a lack of experience or aptitude. In 1870, when Prussian troops besieged Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, Melgarejo declared his intention to lead a Bolivian relief force to rescue the city, which he admired despite never having visited it, and knowing almost nothing about it, including basic geography. When his staff started to protest that it would take months to reach the city- first to cross Brazil to reach the Atlantic, then to somehow acquire naval passage and cross the Atlantic, Melgarejo allegedly replied "Don't be silly! We'll take a shortcut!"

    Well, Melgarejo was the boss, and so 3,000 troops were gathered and duly set out under Melgarejo's personal leadership. Melgarejo broke his foot on the journey, requiring a month-long pause, and while he was absent from the capital revolts started in Potosi, La Paz, and other cities. Melgarejo rushed back to La Paz, but many men deserted along the way, and in January 1871 his remaining force was easily crushed. Melgarejo initially fled to Chile, but learned that his mistress Juana Sanchez had gone to Lima, Peru. He followed her there, but she refused to see him, and he spent days outside her front door, begging to be admitted. Finally, Melgarejo was shot dead by Aurelio Sanchez, Juana's brother who he had pardoned years earlier.

    This is a relic of a fascinating historical figure, who I had never heard of before encountering his coins. The piercing does not greatly detract from the design, and let's face it, whatever you may think about Melgarejo's policies, he had a magnificent beard. At just $28 final bid, this was also pleasantly cheap. Please share your Melgarejo coins, or other Bolivian coins, or whatever else is related.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Hiddendragon

    Hiddendragon World coin collector

    Here's mine. Same year but different coin. I just got this a few months ago and wasn't familiar with it before then. Not sure if mine is a different denomination because I didn't label my photo correctly. Thanks for sharing the interesting history!
    1865 bolivia.jpg
  4. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Say whatever else you like about him, but the fella had a boss beard, didn't he!

    I don't have anything so interesting as a Melgarejo piece, so I'll have to go with a somewhat more modern Bolivian coin.

    Parthicus likes this.
  5. Hiddendragon

    Hiddendragon World coin collector

    Here's some other Bolivian coins. It's not a country that comes up a lot but I do like some of them. 1830 bolivia 1 sol.jpg 1830 bolivia 2 sols.jpg 1875 bolivia 10 centavos.jpg 1876 bolivia 5 centavos.jpg 1878 bolivia 20 centavos.jpg 1892 bolivia 10 centavos.jpg 1939 bolivia 50 centavos.jpg 1951 bolivia 1 boliviano.jpg
  6. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    Another Bolivia General Melgarejo 1865 coin which I have had since the 1960's:

    Silver, 35.0 mm, 19.20 gm, 0.666 fine

    General Melgarejo facing left
    666 Ms 400 Gs

    "To the peacemaker of Bolivia gratitude of the town of Potosi in 1865 to the valor of General Melgarejo"

    The initials "F.P." are of the mint assayer 'F' for Fortunato Equivar and 'P' for his unrecorded assistant.

    The Numista website states that the coin is 37 mm and 20 gm but my coin is 35.0 mm and 19.20 gm.

Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page