Featured Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator - Commemorative coins of 1960 and others

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by willieboyd2, Jan 8, 2019.

  1. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    When I was starting into coins in 1964 I managed to acquire this set of three Portuguese coins dated 1960 and commemorating someone named Prince Henry, who I knew nothing about. All three coins were made of silver and all had the same design, adjusted for size and denomination.

    Recently I found an old book by historian Elaine Sanceau entitled Henry the Navigator, published in 1947, which proved to be a very interesting account of Portuguese sea voyages into the Atlantic and down the west coast of Africa.

    Portugal 5 Escudos 1960 Prince Henry the Navigator
    Silver, 24 mm, 7.16 gm
    Issued to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death in 1460.

    Prince Henry was born in 1394, the third of five sons of King John of Portugal. His father appointed him as Grand Master of the Knights of Christ, the Portuguese successor to the Knights Templar, which put Prince Henry in control of a huge amount of money. He opened a sort of university of seamanship and navigation for sea captains, sailors, ship engineers, which was attended and instructed by mariners from all over Europe. Prince Henry's financed voyages of exploration and financially encouraged ships to go further into the Atlantic and down the west coast of Africa. He is considered to be the father of Portuguese exploration.

    Portugal 10 Escudos 1960 Prince Henry the Navigator
    Silver, 30 mm, 12.57 gm

    Of course, the purpose of these explorations was to locate gold, slaves, and goods to be brought back to Portugal, and these were making the country rich.

    Portugal 20 Escudos 1960 Prince Henry the Navigator
    Silver, 34 mm, 20.98 gm

    Prince Henry was especially interested in the legends of "Prester John", a fabulously wealthy and powerful Christian king of an African country and sent ships and exploring parties into Africa to find his kingdom with the idea of forming a Christian alliance to fight the Moslems.

    Prince Henry died in 1460 but his university was kept going due to the profits it was bringing to the country.

    In 1438 Prince Henry's nephew Alfonso became King of Portugal as Alfonso V and issued this little undated coin:

    Portugal ceitil of Alfonso V (1438-1481)
    Copper, 20 mm, 1.70 gm

    Some of Prince Henry's sailors became famous later, including Vasco da Gama, who successfully sailed to India in 1498.

    Portugal 1000 Reis 1898 - Discovery of India 400th anniversary
    Silver, 38 mm, 24.95 gm

    The cross on the coin is the Cross of the Order of Christ, the Portuguese military order formed from the Knights Templar. It is a national emblem and appeared on the sails of their ships and on many of their coins.

    Naturally, Vasco da Gama "discovered" India and when he returned to Portugal in 1499, he reported his feat to the king.

    Portugal had long been in a rivalry with Spain and the Portuguese king took the opportunity to write to the king of Spain bragging that his man made it to India while Spain's man did not.

    Spain's man, Christopher Columbus, another former Prince Henry "university" student:

    United States Half Dollar 1893 Christopher Columbus
    Silver, 30 mm, 12.39 gm

    In 1500, another Portuguese captain, Pedro Alvares Cabral, on his way to India, landed on what he thought was a large island, and claimed it for Portugal. With so much money coming in from Africa and India, Portugal left this discovery alone until 1532 when some settlers were sent to found a colony in what became known as Brazil.

    Brazil 200 reis 1932 - 400th Anniversary of Colonization
    Copper-nickel, 25 mm, 7.8 gm
    Note the Order of Christ cross on the ship's sails

    Portugal, with so much gold coming in, had to make some pretty coins, such as this one:

    Portugal Moidore 4000 Reis 1704
    Gold, 29 mm, 10.71 gm, minted in Lisbon

    TheRed, alurid, spirityoda and 4 others like this.
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  3. longnine009

    longnine009 Most Exalted Excellency

    That was a really nice presentation-- thank you.
  4. Hiddendragon

    Hiddendragon World coin collector

    I love both Portuguese coins and history. Exploration and colonization is one of my favorite areas of history, and Portugal's contributions are huge, if not well known today. In fact, Portugal claimed so much land over such a vast footprint that it didn't actually have the manpower to colonize and exploit it all, being a small and not well populated country. For this reason, Portuguese ships were often crewed with foreign sailors, who would take their knowledge back to their home countries or other countries and often end up encroaching on Portuguese territory.

    It's kind of funny in a way when you read about the early voyages down the coast of Africa. Almost without fail they'd set out with high expectations, and then after not very long at all the crew would become convinced they were all going to die and mutiny and force the ship back to port.

    Here are some relevant coins from my collection.

    Pedro Alvarez Cabral, early explorer.
    Vasco de Gama
    De Gama again
    Discovery of India
    Prince Henry
    And the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the world between Portugal and Spain. Most of these are from a series from the mid to late 90s commemorating the feats of Portuguese exploration. There were four a year and I believe I have them all.
    1968 portugal 50 escudos.jpg
    1969 portugal 50 escudos.jpg 1998 de gama.jpg 1998 india.jpg henry.jpg treaty.jpg
  5. spirityoda

    spirityoda Coin Junky Supporter

    I liked that gold coin. sweet.
  6. jgenn

    jgenn World Crown Collector

    Was there a crown sized (>=36mm, >=25g) version of the 1960 Portugal Prince Henry the Navigator commemoratives? I've just done a quick search and I don't see anything greater than a 20 escudos. I'm looking for silver '60s crowns for one of my collections.
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