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  • Spanish Milled Coinage
  • Spanish Silver: General Introduction

    Colonial Milled (Pillar) Coinage 1732-1821: Introduction

    With inferior quality cobs being minted at most mints in the Viceroyalty of Peru, laws were finally passed in 1728 and 1730 mandating modern minting techniques be employed. Possibly to make up for the added costs associated with acquiring and sustaining the new more expensive technology, the coinage was slightly devalued with the eight reales reduced in weight and fineness to 417.6 grains at .9166 fineness. In 1732 the Mexican mint came into compliance with the new regulations and stopped producing hammer struck cobs. They began minting an improved product on a screw press. The use of a screw press required the production of milled or finished blank planchets. The large screw press worked by rotating a weighted lever that pressed an upper and lower die together with a blank planchet between them. Under the intense and even pressure of the press the planchet would be evenly and fully struck. Also, all coins would be of the same thickness. To insure quality, production was supervised by two assayers, with both adding their initial to each coin, unlike the cobs that were supervised by only one assayer. Additionally, for the eight reales coin a special collar was used to produce an edge design, in this case the coin was given a protective corded edge consisting of a design resembling a tulip. Any clipping or filing would be immediately evident as it would mar the edge design. Pillar coins were a great improvement over cobs in that they were of a uniform size and weight without cracks or uneven edges. They had a deep full strike with all information clearly visible and were difficult to clip or counterfeit. Denominations for this new coinage included the one half, one, two, four and eight reales coins.

    The obverse of this new series displays the crowned arms of Castile and Leon with the assayer's initial to the left of the shield and the denomination to the right. The legend would give the monarch's name and title, such as PHILIP V D. G. HISPAN. ET IND. REX (Philip V by the Grace of God King of Spain and the Indies). The reverse depicts two orbs with a crown above (representing the Old and the New Worlds). The orbs are over the Straits of Gibraltar, flanked by two crowned pillars, representing the Pillars of Hercules, with PLUS VLTRA (More Beyond) on banners wrapped around the columns. The legend reads VTRAQUE VNUM (One on Both Sides). Below is the date, with the mintmark displayed both before and after it. Following Mexico's lead (in 1732), this new series was minted in Santiago, Chile (1751), Lima, Peru (1752), Guatemala City (1754), Santa Fe de Bogotá, Columbia (1759) and Potosí, Bolivia (1767). During the production of these coins some minor modifications were made in the location of the mintmark and assayer's initials. Also, on the eight reales denomination the design of the crown on top of the left pillar was changed in 1754. Prior to that time both crowns were identical, representing the royal Spanish crown. In 1754 the left crown was changed to the Imperial design.

    Although mints had begun production of the new milled coinage, the old style cobs continued to be made throughout the Viceroyalty of Peru until mid-century, with the final cobs being produced at the Potosí mint in Bolivia in 1773.

    Once again, in 1772 the Spanish government reformed their coinage. This time the weight remained the same but the fineness of the silver was lowered to .90278. In order that coins made at the new standard could be identified from the earlier pillar coins the design was modified. On the obverse they replaced the the arms of Leon and Castile with a bust of the king and a legend giving the king's name and title as, CAROLUS III DEI GRATIA (Charles III by the Grace of God) with the date. The reverse was also modified. The coins continued to display the two Pillars of Hercules with the motto PLUS VLTRA (More Beyond) on banners, but the two orbs between the columns were replaced with the crowned shield of Leon and Castile. The legend reads, HISPAN. ET IND. REX (King of Spain and the Indies) followed by the mintmark, the denomination and the assayer's initials. The corded edge of the eight reales was also replaced with an edge design comprised of alternating circles and rectangles. These coins, which continued to be minted through 1821, are known as the "portrait" or "modified pillar" series.

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