1622 FLEET << RESEARCH
An Early, Lima Mint Coin from Nuestra Señora de Atocha
An Early, Lima Mint Coin
from Nuestra Señora de Atocha
One of the first coins
minted in South America was recently added to the MFMHS
collection. The coin was recovered from a chest of coins
found on Nuestra Señora de Atocha in 1985. It is a
beautifully struck, silver, 2 real piece from the mint
in Lima, Peru. It was minted sometime between 1568 and
II issued a decree on August 21, 1565 authorizing the
opening of a mint in Lima. This was done in response to
the increased silver production at Potosí, and the
growing practice of utilizing irregular, privately
manufactured "coin" silver throughout the
region. Because of the time it took for the edict to
travel from Spain to Peru, and then actually organize
and create the mint, it was not until August of 1568
that the first coins were struck. Philip's order
specified the coins were to be modeled on those being
produced in Mexico, but to bear his name instead of
Carlos and Juana's, and to utilize a "P," for
Peru, as a mint mark. Denominations of eight, four, two,
one, one-half and one-quarter reales were issued in this
MFMHS coin is of the fine standard that was ordered by
the King. It is evenly round with a clear, well centered
strike. The obverse bears a crowned shield divided into
quarters containing the lions and castles of Castile and
León. This is encircled by the legend "PHILIPUSoIIoDoHISPA."
The assayer's mark, an "R," is to the right of
the shield, between it and the legend. This coin is one
of only two known to bear this mark to the right of the
shield. All others show it to the left. Interestingly,
the other coin with this feature is a two real piece
also from the Atocha. The significance of this
particular characteristic is unknown. The assayer is
believed to be Alonso de Rincón, who also later opened
the mint at Potosí. The reverse bears the pillars of
Hercules standing on ocean waves. The motto Plus Ultra,
abbreviated to "PL-USU-TR," travels through
these. The pillars represent either side of the straits
of Gibraltar, which, for many centuries, were the end of
the known world. Plus Ultra can be loosely translated as
"beyond the limits," reflecting Spain's pride
in having discovered, and then established an empire in
the New World. Between the pillars is the "P"
mint mark and two dots denoting the coin's denomination.
Encircling all this is "NIARUMETINDIARUMREX+"
which completes the legend, as translated from the
Latin, "Philip II, by the grace of God, King of
Spain and the Indies."
The Peruvian silver
industry never accepted the mint in Lima. For the
trouble and expense of shipping silver from Potosí to
the coast, better prices could be found elsewhere. The
resentment of this system resulted in a constant assault
by the miners on the propriety and performance of the
mint. In 1571 their complaints succeeded in closing it.
In 1577 the Lima mint was reopened, issuing newly
designed coins, but by then a new mint at Potosí had
been established. The Lima mint could not operate as
efficiently, being so far from the main source of silver
production. In 1588 the troubled mint was closed, not to
open again for nearly a century. Though the early coin
production at Lima was always limited, the mint was the
first step in what was soon to be a flood of South
American coins that, for nearly two centuries, would
become the world standard.
1929 Adams, Edgar H.
Catalogue of the Collection of Julius Guttag, Comprising
the Coinage of Mexico, Central America, South America
and the West Indies. New York, 1929
. 1950 Dasí, Tomas
Estudio de Los Reales de a Ocho, Tomo Segundo. Valencia.
1978 Grunthal, Henry and
The Coinage of Peru. Numismaticher Verlag P.N. Schulten,
1987 McKinney, Sandy
The Research Coin Collection: A Unique Representative
Collection of 237 New World Spanish Coins Recovered from
the Wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Christie,
Manson and Woods International, Inc., New York.
1975 Szászdi, Adám
"Spain and American Treasure: the Depreciation of
Silver and Monetary Exchange in the Viceroyalty of Lima,
1550-1610" in The Journal of European Economic
History, Vol.4 No.2.
a printable version in Acrobat PDF format, please click
for more information.