World Gold - 1808PTS PJ Bolivia 8 Escudos NGC MS63
1808PTS PJ BOLIVIA 8 Escudos, NGC MS63
When you own a coin such as this, you actually can hold Spanish-American colonial history in your hand. The obverse of this striking gold coin presents a right-facing bust of Charles IV (“CAROL IIII”). It also reads, “D-G-HISP-ET IND-R” which is an abbreviation for “DEI GRATIA HISPANA RUM ET INDIARUM REX” (by the grace of God, King of Spain and the Indies). Below the bust is the date “1808.”
Found upon the reverse of this example of colonial American history is the Spanish coat of arms within two shields. Each quarter of the smaller interior shield presents both the individual arms of Castile (a castle) and Leon (a lion). Upon an escutcheon are three fleurs-de-lis, the symbol of the regal Bourbon dynasty. Encircled with a collar of the Golden Fleece from Greek mythology, the entire coat of arms within the shields is dramatically topped off with a Spanish royal crown. This legend is found around the rim: “IN UTROQ FELIX AUSPICE DEO” (with Gold’s guidance one is happy in each place). The Potosí mintmark is found at 7 o’clock, and “PJ” is located at 5 o’clock.
The Mint of Potosí is located in the Bolivian city of Potosí. The vast majority of the silver shipped through the Spanish Main came from the Potosí mint. All coinage minted there was so famous that a well-known expression came to be: valer un potosí, “to be worth a potosí” (“a fortune”). This saying was memorialized by Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. It was silver mining at Cerro Rico (a vast mountain of silver ore that is 2,000 feet above the city), combined with steady population growth, as well as commercial development and Potosí’s impressive height (the city is perched 13,200 feet above sea level) that inspired Spain to build a mint and begin striking coins. Employing rudimentary technology, the first mint at Potosí was operational from 1572 to 1767. That mint was completed in three years at a cost of over 8,000 pesos, which is around $10 million dollars today. Upon hearing about the cost of the mint, King Charles III of Spain is believed to have said, “the whole building must be made of pure silver.”
A new, second mint was erected in the nearby plaza del Gato. Construction began in 1757, ending in 1770. Hammered coinage was produced from the very beginning until 1773. The first screw-press coins were crafted in 1767 and that process was used until movable steam presses were installed at the mint in 1869. Research has not uncovered any gold deposits in Potosí or elsewhere in Spanish colonial Bolivia. Therefore it must have been transported from elsewhere in Spanish America in order to mint gold 8 Escudos and other gold coins.
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